Martin Luther King III says that new African-American network Bounce TV is off to a flying start, but a bill from Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) which would radically change the rules of the road on retransmission consent could completely derail it.
In a letter to Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), King said that the network has 73 affiliates already that make their home on the digital side channels of over-the-air broadcast stations, and that it reaches 76% of the US African-American population.
King said that the sweeping changes to the retransmission consent system currently in place would be upended by DeMint’s bill, and the result would be damaging to the broadcast stations Bounce relies on, “…particularly those economically fragile one.”
He added that it will also be a problem in smaller markets where broadcasters “…will lack the leverage to negotiate equitable carriage agreements with the giant pay services.”
King concluded, “While the sponsors of S.2008 naively promise a more robust US television marketplace when these rules are repealed, the reverse will happen: broadcasters will lose the financial flexibility to fund diverse programming, both on a broadcasters’ prime channel as well as the digital sub-channels that are allowing Bounce TV to entertain and inform previously neglected African American viewers.”
He urged rejection of the bill.
RBR-TVBR observation: We have to say that we watched the Commerce Committee hearing on the future of video, and when it was Senator DeMint’s turn to ask questions, with a panel full of stakeholders representing all sides of the issue, he instead used his time to launch into a speech in which he basically said that his position was correct and that he believed everybody would find out how right he was after his bill was enacted into law.
We understand that in many cases hearings are choreographed exercises presented to create the illusion that a complicated issue is being carefully researched and deliberated when in fact sides have already been chosen and the result of any potential legislation is predetermined.
But we’re not sure there is anything predetermined in this case – for one thing, it pits several sectors of the communications industry against one another, which means it is not a polarizing political football such as health care, but rather is the type of business v. business issue that often eludes party line legislative predictability.
I guess what we’re saying is that it might have been nice for Senator DeMint to at least pretend to be interested in the opinions of individuals with a strong stake in the outcome of any broadcast legislation while us taxpayers were footing the bill to give him access to a broad selection of them.