Bill Would Repeal Retrans, Ownership Caps

Sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act would repeal the compulsory license, must-carry, retransmission consent and local broadcast ownership limits. NAB turns thumbs down.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Friday introduced legislation in their respective chambers that would turn decades of broadcasting and cable regulation on its head.

The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act — H.R. 3675 and S. 2008 — would repeal the compulsory license, must-carry, retransmission consent and local broadcast ownership limits.

The NAB was quick to voice its opposition to the measure, despite its deregulatory thrust.

“Current law ensures access to quality local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings,” said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton in a statement.

“The proposed changes to the Communications Act strike at the core of free market negotiations and broadcast localism, thereby threatening a community-based information and entertainment medium that serves tens of millions of Americans each day.”

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The American Television Alliance, primarily cable and satellite operators gunning to undermine broadcasters retransmission consent rights, commended Scalise and DeMint, calling their legislation a “constructive step forward.”

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In a statement, Scalise said laws have not been keeping up with changes in electronic media.

“Together, decades-old cable and satellite ‘compulsory copyright’ licenses and ‘retransmission consent’ regulations currently influence many aspects of the broadcast programming consumers watch on TV,” he said.

“The government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers, and the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act ensures that by removing the heavy hand of government, the market is free to operate in a way that continues to benefit consumers and encourage innovation.”

Added DeMint: “If we want to encourage innovation, job creation and consumer benefits, we need to stop issuing new regulations and instead remove and modernize rules written to address the last century’s business and regulatory models.”  

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Specially, the legislation would:

  • “Repeal those provisions of the Communications Act that mandate the carriage and purchase of certain broadcast signals by cable operators, satellite providers and their customers.
  • “Repeal the Communications Act’s retransmission consent provisions and the Copyright Act’s compulsory license provisions, thereby allowing negotiations for the carriage of broadcast stations to take place in the same deregulated environment as negotiations for carriage of non-broadcast channels such as Discovery, Food Network and AMC.
  • “Repeal ownership limitations imposed on local media operators, allowing businesses to evolve and adapt to today’s dynamic communications market.”

Comments (6)

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Hope Yen and Charles Babington says:

December 19, 2011 at 11:10 am

…giving unlimited sway to any and all special interests. You got cash, you go as far as the cash will take you. This might be fine in a perfect world, but an untethered broadcast world regulationwise would undoubtedly lead to even more draconian heavy handedness from Washington a few decades down the road.

Doug Halonen says:

December 19, 2011 at 11:40 am

This plan is lunacy. In the ensuing chaos it will make it more difficult for consumers to find channels as no regulatory framework will exist for the relationship between broadcasters and cable carriers. The current system is hardly perfect, but to take ever more limited spectrum (which belongs to the public) and limited means of retransmission (most cable systems are still franchised monopolies) and wipe out the rules amounts to a government sponsored land-grab with ever larger vertical monopolies combining broadcast, cable, and satellite distribution. The loser will be the consumer.

Ellen Samrock says:

December 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm

On the plus side (at least for Genachowski and the FCC) if this ever saw the light of day as a law, full power stations will be turning in their licenses by the droves.

Brian Bussey says:

December 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm

we have seen this beast in action. Its called Clear Channel and the result is rightwing radio all day every day with nary a word of opposition. It is unAmerican and the cable companies could not buy a better law.

    Teri Keene says:

    December 19, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    Maybe these two Senators should look at radio and see how Clear Channel and Cumulus have all but destroyed that medium – particularly with voice tracking and 20 minutes of commercials per hour.

Nicole Dee says:

December 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

The OTA broadcast stations that were greedy enough to go the retransmission route created this mess. If all OTA had stayed as must carry, there would not be legislative proposals like this. If this bill becomes law, it would not surprise me in the least to see wholesale abandonment of local station programming. The pay TV distributors will deal directly with the big content producers ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, and others, completely ignoring the local OTA broadcast station owners. The OTA station owners, having many fewer viewers and much less revenue, will then be in a position to see the radio frequencies they use leased or auctioned to wireless ISPs by the USA Government. Greed gets you gone.


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