Republican Rep. Steve Scalise on Monday reintroduced legislation to overhaul regulations related to carriage negotiations between pay TV providers and broadcasters amid increasing video competition from online streaming players.
Scalise, of Louisiana, said the “Next Generation Television Marketplace Act” would create a free-market video system that would enable the various stakeholders to compete more evenly.
“Innovation tends to follow the path of least government resistance. For proof, look no further than the growth of online streaming services that are operating in a completely free market, while competing against other platforms that are regulated as if they were still monopolies from the 1990’s,” Scalise said in a statement. “My legislation will level the playing field so consumers can benefit from even more freedom in the video marketplace.”
Specifically the bill calls for the repeal of Communications Act provisions that mandate the carriage and purchase of broadcast signals by cable operators, satellite providers and their customers. It also seeks to repeal retransmission consent provisions and the Copyright Act’s compulsory license provisions. Those moves would enable broadcast affiliates to sell the programming they license without overly burdensome regulations, according to Scalise.
Scalise, who first introduced a similar bill in December 2011, also wants to eliminate government oversight in defining the scope of programming exclusivity. Finally, the bill would codify the repeal of media ownership restrictions on local broadcasters that Scalise said “prevent them from adapting to today’s dynamic communications marketplace.”
“It’s time for Congress to ‘cut the cord’ on decades-old regulations, and finally update our 90’s-era laws that are now obsolete in an age where content is available on demand and on the go. The competition among pay-TV providers, streaming services, networks, and local channels has never been more intense, resulting in more choices for American families who are increasingly demanding more personalized viewing options at prices they can afford,” Scalise said.
The move received applause from industry group the American Cable Association, although the organization’s president conceded that the measure was unlikely to move forward before this fall’s midterm elections.
“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,” ACA President and CEO Matthew Polka said in a statement. “ACA looks forward to working with Rep. Scalise and others as this bill and other legislation advance. 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.”
The American Television Alliance also cheered the bill.
ATVA national spokesman Trent Duffy released a statement saying, “The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act will jumpstart and elevate a long-overdue conversation about modernizing the rules of the road for how Americans access and pay for video content. The legislation is forward-thinking, free-market oriented and pro-consumer. We live in an instant, on-demand digital world. Consumers have unparalleled choice and competition for video content. Yet the laws that govern the video marketplace were first written in 1934 and last updated in 1992 – long before cell phones, HDTV or the Internet was even contemplated.”
ATVA also noted that since 2010 there have been more than 900 “broadcaster-initiated” blackouts in the U.S.
The National Association of Broadcasters, meanwhile, opposed the bill and warned of potential harms.
“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,” said NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton, in a statement. “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.”