Commerce Committee’s Jim DeMint: Rule slayer


Jim DeMintUnder current local ownership caps, one company can not own two of the top-four rated television stations in a given market. But if Jim DeMint (R-SC) had his way, one company could own all four of them, and even take on a few more weaker stations! Welcome to the odds-on favorite to lead the Republican contingent in the next version of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The long-pending retirement of current Commerce Committee Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and the just-announced retirement of former odds-on favorite successor Olympia Snowe (R-ME) have cleared the way for DeMint to take the top slot at the Committee, that was headed not all that long ago by John McCain (R-AZ) and the late Ted Stevens (R-AK).

According to Roll Call, Republican leadership has often been at odds with DeMint, who sits at the far right of the Senate Republican caucus. In past elections, DeMint has been known to use his own political action committee to fund candidacies in opposition to his own party’s designated picks. According to Roll Call, party leadership resisted giving him the top slot of the Finance Committee in 2009.

But now, Roll Call believes leadership would rather allow DeMint’s succession to move ahead unimpeded to avoid a confrontation with other members of DeMint’s wing of the party.

DeMint appears to have no particular love of any one player in the communications industry and is content to let the market sort things out. He discusses his thoughts on technology in the issues section of his US Senate website, and mentioned the growing adoption of mobile and satellite services. He then stated, “The common theme of all these developments is that they are the product of a dynamic marketplace. Entrepreneurs and investors took risks and offered choices to consumers who were frustrated with the quality, choice, and cost involved with old-style, overly-regulated telephone, radio, TV and cable service. The clear benefit of these less regulated pockets in the communications industry has been increased innovation and choice for consumers looking for the best value for their hard-earned dollars.”

DeMint has introduced legislation (S.492) to completely defund the Corporation for Public Broadcast following 2013. But of more interest is his S.2008 which deals with the future of the television marketplace. Among other things, it would give MVPDs unfettered access to broadcast signals – they would not even have to get permission to rebroadcast a station, much less negotiate a fair carriage fee.

He would also strike down regulations on the over-the-air side, with numerous broadcast restrictions headed for elimination. There would be no local ownership cap or cross-ownership restriction.

Here is the summary of his bill:

Next Generation Television Marketplace Act of 2011
Repeals provisions of the Communications Act of 1934 concerning: (1) the carriage of distant television stations and significantly viewed signals by satellite carriers, (2) the retransmittal of television signals to eligible state counties in the designated market area of another state by cable operators or satellite carriers, (3) the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) qualified carrier certification process, (4) the designation of cable channels for commercial video programming use, (5) the carriage of local commercial television signals and qualified low power stations by cable operators, (6) the FCC’s authority to adopt syndicated exclusivity rules for private home viewing of secondary transmissions by satellite of broadcast station signals, and (7) the requirement that cable systems or other multichannel video programming distributors obtain consent to retransmit a broadcasting station signal.

Repeals and revises provisions concerning: (1) the carriage of local television signals by satellite carriers, and (2) the regulation of rates and broadcast signal carriage. Makes several existing requirements concerning the carriage of local television broadcast stations applicable only to qualified noncommercial educational television stations.

Repeals federal copyright laws requiring statutory licenses for certain secondary transmissions of distant and local television programming by satellite carriers.

Extends exemptions from copyright infringement laws to certain secondary transmissions by cable systems and satellite carriers. Repeals provisions concerning cable system: (1) nonsimultaneous transmission infringement, and (2) statutory licenses for secondary transmissions.

Directs the FCC to repeal related FCC rules and eliminate: (1) restrictions on the number of broadcast television stations that a person or entity may own, operate, or control in the same designated market area under the local television multiple ownership rule; (2) the radio-television cross-ownership rule; and (3) limitations on the direct or indirect ownership, operation, or control of a broadcast television station by a person or entity that owns, operates, or controls a daily newspaper under the daily newspaper cross-ownership rule.

Requires that this Act take effect on July 1, 2014, subject to the exception that contracts, understandings, and arrangements related to retransmission consent and the distribution of video programming entered into prior to its enactment be provided for under special transitional provisions.