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Updates to the Communications Act


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Congress may soon consider changes to the Communications Act (or “CommAct”), which contains many of the laws that governs local television and radio broadcasters. It is important that any changes do not impose new burdens on local broad asters or tilt the competitive marketplace in favor of cable, satellite, telco, or other pay-TV providers.

Pay-TV companies resell top-rated local broadcast signals to their subscribers for a profit. These same companies are trying to secure changes to the Communications Act that would tilt the marketplace in their favor—jeopardizing the ability of local broadcast stations to continue to provide free locally-driven content to the local communities that they serve.

MDCD is urging Congress to support broadcaster on the following key issues relating to the Commuications Act:

• Do Not Change the Retransmission Consent Law. Pay-TV operators are working to eliminate or change the current retransmission consent law that allows local TV stations to negotiate with pay-TV companies in a free and highly competitive video marketplace for the privilege of retransmitting and reselling local TV signals. The current retransmission consent law is fair, it is working as Congress intended, and local stations invest these retransmission consent fees back into producing, expanding, and improving their local content.

• Keep Local Broadcast Channels on the Basic Tier. Congress requires pay-TV providers to offer local broadcast channels on the “basic tier”—the least expensive pay-TV package—to assure that subscribers can access the important local and emergency informational programming broadcast by local TV stations. Eliminating this requirement would force consumers to pay a premium for this critical local content.

• Keep Enforcement of Exclusivity Provisions at the FCC. Local TV stations have contracts with networks and syndicators for the exclusive right to deliver network and syndicated programming in a local market. The FCC enforces these provisions in the event of a dispute. Pay-TV companies want to force these disputes into the courts—a more expensive and time-consuming process that is wholly unnecessary and harmful to local broadcast station.

Local broadcasters are charged with serving the needs and interests of their local communities. Local radio and television broadcasters in Maryland, DC, and Delaware have long promoted this core value of localism by investing in local news, weather, public affairs, and emergency information programming to address the specific local communities that they serve. (See MDCD Localism Stats and Stories here (link).) Local stations also offer viewers in Maryland, DC, and Delaware top-rated national and syndicated programming that they acquire through affiliations with broadcast networks and syndicators.

Local TV stations offer this mix of top-quality local and national programming to viewers for free over-the-air. But such programming does not come cheap. Stations continue to invest significant dollars and resources to produce and improve local programming and to acquire the exclusive rights to provide top-quality national and syndicated programming in a local market.

To preserve local stations’ ability to generate and invest funds in local programming and other local broadcast services, Congress should not make any changes to the Communications Act that would favor the interest of pay-TV providers over local broadcasters.



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