Broadcasters want to make sure local free over-the-air television is available to viewers on satellite in all 210 DMAs. But satellite companies would like to carry broadcasters for free (or at a fixed rate) and have access distant sources of network programming. The venue was the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, part of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Speaking on behalf of broadcasters, Barrington Broadcasting’s James Yager reminded Congress, “As Congress considers updates to SHVERA, it is vital that you uphold and strengthen the tradition of localism. Any changes should not impair the enforcement of program market agreements that are essential to local broadcast service. Furthermore, this Committee should strengthen localism by phasing out satellite licenses for distant signals. The license should be replaced with a requirement for local-into-local carriage in all television markets, which would enhance localism, programming and price competition and increase viewer choice.” He suggested that the fact that 31 DMAs remain without local into local service is nothing more than a business decision on the part of the satellite companies.
Echostar’s Charles Ergen said that the current level of local-into-local represents 97% of all US television households. He said he wanted retransmission fees either eliminated altogether or at least standardized, and wanted to be able to import a big-four network affiliate when a closer station pulls its signal as a negotiation ploy, or when there is significant consumer demand for an affiliate in a neighboring market.
RBR/TVBR observation: Most of the programming available on MVPDs is nationally focused, meaning that local broadcast stations are a critical source of information to local viewers that the MVPD operators cannot otherwise provide. Congress must assure the local broadcasters are both healthy and connected to viewers.