Legislation being drafted by Sen. John McCain is in response to broadcaster threats of shifting network shows to cable if the courts affirm the right of Barry Diller’s Aereo and similar services to retransmit broadcast programming online without paying broadcasters.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is drafting legislation that would require the FCC to yank the TV licenses of any broadcaster that shifts their TV programming to cable, according to industry lobbyists.
The lawmaker’s bill, which could be introduced as soon as Thursday, also would require cable and satellite operators to offer programming to their customers on an a la carte basis — or lose the compulsory copyright license that currently allows them to carry broadcast programming without having to negotiate for each broadcast program’s rights individually, the lobbyists said.
In addition, the draft bill, as described by the senator’s staff in briefings with industry lobbyists on Monday and Tuesday, would eliminate the sports blackout rule, which currently allows the NFL and other sports leagues to black out local TV sports programming to protect stadium attendance.
The provision that would require the FCC to pull the licenses of broadcasters who shift programming to cable apparently comes in response to recent announcements of broadcast TV network executives that they might consider shifting network shows to cable if the courts affirm the right of Barry Diller’s Aereo and similar services to retransmit broadcast programming online without paying the broadcasters.
Industry lobbyists said McCain is hoping to introduce the legislation in advance of a Senate Communications Subcommittee hearing on video issues that has been scheduled for May 14. Among the witnesses slated for the session, according to sources, are Gordon Smith, NAB president-CEO, and Michael Powell, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president-CEO, sources said.
Industry lobbyists said that the McCain bill has little chance of passing. McCain, who previously chaired the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees media industry issues, is no longer even a member of the committee.
At deadline, a spokesman for Sen. McCain, who has been a long-time advocate of a la carte, had not returned telephone calls.
NAB declined comment, as did a spokesman for NCTA.