DEAR BROADCASTERS, CAN WE FINALLY DISCUSS RETRANSMISSION CONSENT REFORM?

For years, broadcasters have tried to delay any meaningful retransmission consent reform. There’s wide, bipartisan consensus that the current system isn’t working and needs to be reformed. With skyrocketing retrans fees and blackouts, something has to change.

During two years’ worth of discussions on Capitol Hill about the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR), the broadcasters repeatedly insisted that STELAR wasn’t the appropriate vehicle for retransmission consent reform.

In August, then-Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune introduced an innovative bipartisan proposal called “Local Choice,” that let consumers decide which local TV stations they wish to pay for. (ATVA continues to support this proposal.)

At the time, broadcasters howled that there wasn’t enough time for Congress to consider Local Choice.

“This proposal represents a significant rewrite of the Communications Act. Given the shortness of time between now and the end of the Congressional session, we question whether there is sufficient time for key committees in Congress to give this proposal the thorough review that is warranted,” said National Association of Broadcasters spokesman Dennis Wharton.

Local Choice was eventually removed from STELAR.

As Congress considers an overhaul of the Communications Act, there is ample time for a thorough examination of retransmission consent, Local Choice, and other video reforms. After all, broadcasters themselves said they’d support such conversations.

“As to any other broader changes to broadcasting rules, NAB firmly believes those should be debated as part of the comprehensive Communications Act update, recently launched by Chairmen Upton and Walden,” said then-NAB Board Member Marci Burdick in testimony last March.

She also stated: “If your goal is regulatory parity between the various video platforms seated at this table, a comprehensive examination in the Communications Act update is the only way to achieve it.”

So what do you say, broadcasters? Can we finally get started talking about retransmission consent reform? Or were those just disingenuous stall tactics?

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