Is Congress Prepared To Deregulate Television?

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) apparently think so based on the cable- and satellite-friendly bill they submitted today called the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act. It would end retransmission consent — the rules that require pay TV providers to negotiate deals with local broadcasters to carry their programming. It doesn’t stop there: The proposal also would end restrictions that enable syndicators to sell shows exclusively into different markets. And it would scrap rules that bar cable companies from importing network programming from out-of-market stations when they can’t strike deals with local broadcasters. DeMint used the trendy magic words — “job creation” — to support the bill. To promote innovation, he says, “we need to stop issuing new regulations and instead remove and modernize rules written to address the last century’s business and regulatory models.” DirecTV agrees, saying that the proposal would “eliminate byzantine regulations that shackle innovation, competition and consumer choice.”

But when it comes to wielding political clout, the bill’s supporters probably are no match for the National Association of Broadcasters which says it “respectfully” opposes the legislation. “Current law ensures access to quality local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. The proposed changes to the Communications Act strike at the core of free market negotiations and broadcast localism, thereby threatening a community-based information and entertainment medium that serves tens of millions of Americans each day.”

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