Fledgling network objects to DeMint TV bill


People watching TVPunch TV Network serves the African American and Hispanic communities with broadcast television programming. It has written to key legislative leaders to express its concerns about the elimination of must-carry and retransmission consent rules as a threat to broadcast television and its own existence.

Punch sent its letter to the leaders of both Commerce Committees — Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Fred Upton (R-MI) in the House and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) in the Senate.

Punch is concerned about the bill put forth by Jim DeMint (R-SC) that would undo large portions of the Communications Act.

IC Places is the publicly-traded company behind Punch. It said, “Punch TV, and networks like it, benefit from the must carry rules to get carriage on cable and satellite systems, which otherwise might not carry diverse programming. Broadcasters think the proposed change will harm less penetrated stations, such as urban, religious, and foreign-language ones, that are important to viewers in communities across the nation. Millions of Americans, especially minority viewers, rely on broadcast programming. More than 54 million Americans rely exclusively on free, over-the-air television, including multi-racial communities, the poor, elderly individuals and those living in rural areas. More importantly, 44 percent of those who rely exclusively on free television with an antenna are minorities.”

It said that if DeMint’s bill and its House companion ever pass, it might keep Punch TV and other similar networks “seeing the light of day.” It added that the bill “…will also limit competition from start-up networks and minority broadcasters. The ultimate result could be limiting the viewer’s choice by keeping minority and independent networks from entering the broadcast television marketplace.”

Punch kicked off in October 2011 and says it is now being seen in New York, Houston, Detroit, Lafayette LA, Wichita KS, Pensacola FL and other places. It is aiming to be accessible to 50M household by year’s end.

RBR-TVBR observation: We greatly appreciate the argument Punch is making – and the goal of achieving program diversity is absolutely a major benefit of the current must-carry regime.

There is so much more. To discuss one example at some length, we are still waiting for so much as one member of the MVPD community to explain where local content will come from if broadcasters are unable to provide it.

The only local content MVPDs supply in our area basically sells restaurants and such to tourists. We have to say that the channel wasn’t helpful at all when Hurricane Irene paid us a visit last year. However, local broadcast stations from both the Greenville-New Bern-Jacksonville and Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News DMAs were indispensable.

Are you going to bring up The Weather Channel, MVPDs? It’s true that TWC did a good job supplementing local coverage while Irene was approaching and while it was actually here (although TWC’s coverage maybe was a little heavy on the drama) – but as Irene moved north, TWC followed it and forgot all about us.

But the stations in Greenville and Norfolk did not – they stayed with the local story, recognizing that during the aftermath of the storm was when we most needed accurate information. Local broadcasters did all this  despite adding production expense and no doubt losing advertising revenue – all while virtually every basic cable channel on every MVPD simply conducted business as usual.

Until MVPDs have boots on the ground in all 210 DMAs, they have no viable argument whatsoever against must-carry. It’s as simple as that.