The FCC’s move to assume a presumption of competition in all markets served by an MPVD, moving the burden of proof from MVPDs to local franchising authorities, has earned the opposition of broadcasters, and the New Jersey Broadcasters Association is urging Sen Cory Booker to join the cause.
Senate opposition to the FCC plan is being led by Al Franken (D-MN).
Here is the text of the letter to Booker, from NJBA President/CEO Paul Rotella:
Dear Senator Booker:
On behalf of the New Jersey Broadcasters Association and the vast and diverse audiences we serve, I write today with serious concerns regarding a proceeding at the Federal Communications Commission (MB Docket No. 15-53) stemming from implementation of the STELA Reauthorization (STELAR) passed last year. Senator Al Franken has agreed to send a letter to the FCC strongly opposing this FCC rulemaking which, if it proceeds, risks harming consumers and local broadcasters. I strongly encourage you to join Senator Franken (MN) by co-signing this letter in opposition to these anti-consumer deregulatory actions.
Section 111 of that legislation clearly lays out a streamlined process for small cable in rural areas to file for effective competition. I understand instead of easing the administrative burdens for small rural cable operators, the Commission went way beyond this by proposing to flip its current presumption that effective competition among pay-TV providers does not exist in all communities to a presumption that it does. Removal of these consumer protections could place broadcast stations on a higher, more expensive tier, or even on multiple tiers, allowing a cable operator the ability to force subscribers either to pay for the higher tiers, or forego seeing the programs that subscribers want and need to see.
New Jersey viewers rely on the basic tier for news and entertainment, but also for lifesaving information in times of emergency. If this proposal moves forward, we are very concerned about our viewers who utilize cable, especially those that rely on a reasonably priced basic service tier to access local stations and public, educational and governmental access (PEG) channels. The current process for determining effective competition, while by no means flawless, at least affords local franchise authorities a reasonable opportunity to level the playing field with cable giants so that they can serve as a backstop against exorbitant cable charges. This includes preserving the requirement that cable operators maintain a basic service tier for all consumers, reducing the ability of cable operators to make it more difficult or expensive for consumers to access certain highly desired local programming. With the removal of local regulation of cable TV service, these viewers will have zero recourse when cable companies start to raise the price of basic service, or double the cost of renting necessary equipment.
We believe the FCC can do as Congress intended and streamline the process for small and rural cable, without flipping the whole regime on its head. There are thousands of communities across the country that do not currently have “effective competition” in the pay TV space and are therefore subject to narrow, but critical local regulation that helps ensure low rates for the basic tier of cable TV service.
Again, please join Senator Franken (MN) and sign this letter to the FCC to reverse course on the shift in presumption on effective competition. Our viewers deserve better.
Please contact Leslie Hylton with Senator Franken’s office to cosign this letter. Of course, you can reach me directly at 201-914-0495 if you have any questions or require any additional information.
Thank you for your attention to this matter and please let me know if you will consider joining as a co-signer.
With my appreciation and warmest regards,
Paul S. Rotella, Esq.,
President/Chief Executive Officer
New Jersey Broadcasters Association