Senators push for pay TV retransmission reform; broadcasters push back

Broadcasters, increasingly dependent on retransmission fees paid by pay TV providers--and in turn covered by pay TV subscribers--don't like an idea being floated around the Senate Commerce Committee that would give subscribers the choice of paying for broadcast services individually.

Senator Jay Rockfeller Senator John Thune

At left, Sen. Rockefeller; right, Sen. Thune. (Source: senate.gov)

Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D. - West Va.) and ranking member Sen. John Thune (R. - S.D.) would like to see a "Local Choice" attachment applied to a revised Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

"Local Choice would empower consumers by allowing them to choose the commercial broadcast content that they want to pay for as part of their pay TV subscription, while ensuring that local broadcasters continue to receive full market value for their content," a Commerce Committee staffer said in a story carried by The Hill.

The tenuous nature of that "full market value" provision no doubt played a large part in the broadcasters' opposition, as voiced in a statement by National Association of Broadcasters EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton.

"NAB has always supported a clean reauthorization of STELA and we do not believe this bill is an appropriate vehicle for reviewing the retransmission consent process," Wharton said in the statement.

The NAB also questioned the timing of the change "given the shortness of time between now and the end of the Congressional session."

As expected, the proposal garnered support from the American Cable Association, whose members have long bridled under broadcasters' retransmission fees and the increasing number of blackouts that happen when local cable providers and broadcasters can't agree on a price.

"The approach taken by Sens. Rockefeller and Thune is to put consumers first.  It will permanently remove consumers from retransmission consent disputes and provide consumers with more choice in the selection of TV station programming than they have seen in decades," ACA President-CEO Matt Polka said in a press release.

For more:
- The Hill has this story
- the Boston Herald has this story
- the NAB issued this statement
- and the ACA has this press release

Related articles:
ACA, ATVA ramp up retrans battle with TV commercial
House passes STELA, boosts pay TV retrans leverage, ends CableCARD requirement
Cable One, NBC Sports Network avert blackout, sign six-month carriage extension

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