Watchdog group Frontiers of Freedom recently sent a letter to Congress asking legislators to resist any effort to change the current policy for broadcast retransmission consent – and now another watchdog is barking up the same tree. The American Conservative Union is taking issue with a bill that appears to strip broadcasters to charge MVPDs for the right to carry their programming.
The letter, delivered to Republican members of Congress, was written by ACU Chairman Al Cardenas and refers to HR 3675 and S 2008, the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA).
Here is the full text of the Cardenas letter:
“March 28, 2012
“Dear Member of Congress,
“On behalf of the American Conservative Union and the conservative membership we represent, we urge that you critically review HR 3675 and S 2008, the Next Generation
Television Marketplace Act, as ‘deregulatory’ legislation. Senator Jim DeMint is to be commended for trying to reduce unnecessary regulations and there are provisions in the bill we would consider supporting. However, one of the major outcomes of the bill would be to strip away the negotiation process known as ‘retransmission consent.’ This process created a marketplace to ensure that broadcasters were compensated by pay-tv providers for the use of their signal and content.
“In 1992 Congress set up ‘retransmission consent’ – a process by which broadcasters and the pay-tv industry would have to negotiate with each other for the use of the broadcast signal. This prevented the pay-tv industry’s previous practice of using the signal for free and then profiting from its retransmission by selling the broadcasters’ content as part of their basic service.
“The programming that is most viewed today is still produced by broadcasting companies. Broadcasters take risks by investing significant amounts of money into content production and marketing, and should have the right of determining its distribution.
“Despite what you might hear, under the present system there is no epidemic of service interruptions that adversely affect consumers and cause them to miss widely-viewed events like the Super Bowl. In fact this is a marketplace in which over 99 percent of negotiations are settled with no service interruptions.
“The reality is that today we have a functioning market in which opposing parties are able to bring value to the negotiating table. By stripping away the right to compensation for the use of the signal the government would be tipping the scales heavily to the side of the pay-tv companies. It would distort the marketplace and allow an uncompensated use of broadcast signals and content and is certainly not ‘deregulation.’ So we urge you to oppose the retransmission consent provisions contained in HR 3675 and S 2008.
“Chairman, The American Conservative Union”
RBR-TVBR has learned on background that it is believed that the provisions of the DeMint bill are not being interpreted correctly. In an earlier story, we published the legislative summary of the bill. The clause which seems to have led to the two watchdog letters is this one:
“(7) the requirement that cable systems or other multichannel video programming distributors obtain consent to retransmit a broadcasting station signal.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Another aspect of the DeMint/Scalise bill is the apparent elimination of local broadcast ownership caps and cross-ownership restrictions. This is not a move that sits well with the average Democrat, and as such we do not anticipate this bill getting so much as a hearing unless Republicans take over the Senate this November.