Congress to Consider Pro-Consumer TV Reforms

Written by PTC | Published August 14, 2014

The PTC is strongly pro-cable choice. That is, the idea that consumers and families should have the ability to pick, choose, and pay forUS Capitol the cable programming they wish to come into their homes. That way, they would not be forced to subsidize the enormous amount of cable programming they don’t want, don’t watch and all too often will find offensive – just to get access to what they do want see. This is the free market solution to cable programming. Now Congress is set to examine new legislation put forward by Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Senator John Thune (R-SD) that would reorganize the federal law known as “retransmission consent,” which regulates how agreements between broadcasters and local cable companies are brokered. This is especially politically significant because Senator Rockefeller chairs the Senate Commerce Committee (the key committee that oversees the FCC and telecommunications policy), while Senator Thune is its ranking Republican. Consequently, there is some political muscle behind the proposal. TV Newscheck sums the gist of the bill up well:
Instead of broadcasters negotiating for carriage with multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs), those who select retransmission consent would set a retail price for their channel. MVPDs would offer that channel to subscribers at the broadcaster-set price without any mark-up. Subscribers could choose to receive the channel or not; if they take the local channel, the fee would be added to their cable bill and all revenues would be remitted to the local TV station. All other rules — must carry, basic tier, local exclusivity, compulsory license — would be unchanged.
In other words, this would introduce some market forces into the distribution of broadcast networks and their local affiliates – and would be the most consumer-friendly move we’ve seen from Congress in TV distribution in quite some time. To be sure, this bill doesn’t address the issue of cable choice directly, but it lays bare the problems associated with forced bundling and the negative consequences on consumers and families and there is good reason to think that these issues will be addressed in a robust way in the next Congress. Even groups opposed to this approach, like American Community Television, hope that “this plan gets some head wind so we can have a robust national discussion on cable a-la-carte.” To read the PTC’s statement on the bill, click here.

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