House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R., La.), a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, today reintroduced legislation aimed at deregulating the broadcast retransmission market.
Rep. Scalise previously introduced the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act in 2013.
Specifically, the bill would abolish the Copyright Act’s compulsory licensing scheme of broadcast transmissions to cable and satellite TV providers, the Communications Act’s “must carry” regime that enables local broadcasters to require multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) to carry their signals, and the Communications Act’s retransmission consent provisions governing carriage negotiations.
Under the bill, “broadcast affiliates would be allowed to sell the programming they license without hindrance and over regulation from the government,” Rep. Scalise’s office said in a press release.
The bill would also promote “greater competition by eliminating the government’s role in defining the scope of programming exclusivity” and “[c]odify the repeal of certain limitations imposed on local broadcasters that prevent them from adapting to today’s dynamic communications marketplace.”
Early in FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s tenure at the helm of the agency, FCC staff rescinded guidance on broadcasters’ joint sales and shared services agreements issued during the tenure of former Chairman Tom Wheeler (TR Daily, Feb. 3, 2017).
Broadcasters were critical of the bill, while multichannel video programming distributors praised it, although some emphasized that they view it as kicking off a process to develop legislation on the subject.
National Association of Broadcasters Executive Vice President–communications Dennis Wharton said, “Today’s media marketplace has never been more robust, with consumer access to broadcast programming on more platforms than at any time in history. Unfortunately, the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act would undermine this great American success story. It would severely damage broadcasters’ ability to serve local communities and hurt tens of millions of viewers who rely every day on broadcast TV for news, entertainment and lifeline weather coverage. NAB strongly opposes the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act.”
However, TV station consultant Preston Padden said in a blog post the Rep. Scalise’s bill “gets it exactly right. His Bill would repeal a steaming pile of outdated, conflicting and unnecessary government interventions into the market for distributing television programming. Of all the critical functions for which we need the Federal Government, managing and pricing the distribution of TV programs is not one of them! The Scalise Bill would enable perfectly capable market forces to assure that consumers have access to the widest possible array of television programming from the widest possible array of distribution platforms. And it would be fair to all industry segments.”
American Cable Association President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Polka said, “The Scalise bill, to its credit, will prompt lawmakers and stakeholders to begin important conversations that should result in legislation next year that will truly serve the public interest. … Nothing short of sweeping action is necessary in today's marketplace where outdated regulations permit the large corporate broadcasters to take advantage of small cable operators and their customers.”
CenturyLink, Inc., Vice President–federal government affairs David Bartlett said, “The video market and consumer preferences are transitioning rapidly. We applaud Whip Scalise for introducing legislation that takes a deregulatory approach to the video marketplace and eliminates outdated rules that hurt competition.”
NTCA Chief Executive Officer Shirley Bloomfield said, “NTCA appreciates Congressman Scalise’s willingness to take on the difficult issue of updating video policy by introducing this legislation. As consumer consumption of video continues to evolve, it is essential to examine video marketplace failures and consider updates to existing laws and regulations, especially in rural areas where many residents can’t receive broadcast signals. We look forward to engaging in this important discussion with Congress, and ultimately to the passage of legislation that will address the critical shortcomings in the existing rules governing this marketplace.”
ITTA President Genny Morelli called the introduction of the bill “an important first step in the long overdue process of updating the outdated regulatory framework that governs today’s video marketplace. ITTA encourages the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to begin holding hearings on the status of the video marketplace. ITTA urges the Committee to focus specifically on how access to content is a key economic driver in increasing broadband deployment to rural America.”
Jonathan Spalter, president and CEO of the U.S. Telecom Association, said, “With the introduction of the ‘Next Generation Television Marketplace Act’ of 2018, Whip Scalise reinvigorated the conversation about video marketplace regulations. The video landscape is constantly shifting and consumers need — demand — modern rules that govern how we access and pay for video content. This is an important, contemporary conversation, and hopefully the introduction of this legislation will spur further discussion on how best to apply modern, practical rules to this dynamic and evolving industry.”
Free State Foundation President Randolph May said that he had supported the bill in the past and that “with the increasing market power of online video distributors like Netflix, Amazon, and Google, the need for reform is even more compelling now… The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act deserves prompt consideration by Congress. Hopefully, the bill will receive a timely hearing on its merits.”
Other parties issuing statements supporting the bill included Verizon Communications, Inc., Dish Network Corp., the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, Americans for Tax Reform, and Mercatus Center Senior Researcher Adam Thierer. —Lynn Stanton, [email protected]
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