Americans For Tax, But Not Retrans, Reform

Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform, has asked the Senate
Commerce Committee Chair and ranking member not to support
retransmission consent reform legislation as currently configured.

That came in
a letter from Norquist and Kelly William Cobb of the Digital Liberty
Project, to chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison

That came
the same day the Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on retrans,
including on that bill, drafted by Subcommittee Chairman John Kerry

Norquist and
Cobb were certainly not preaching to the choir with Rockefeller, who
slammed the media during the hearing and said retrans reform was
only the first step, and his full committee would be looking at cable
rates and why channels are not offered a la carte. Hutchison did not
speak at the hearing, but she is a longtime fan of the free market.

"We write
urging you to oppose legislation, such as that proposed by Senator John
Kerry, which would insert the government even further into private
retransmission negotiations, where broadcasters
and distributers determine how and at what price content is delivered
to consumers," the pair wrote, according to a copy obtained by
B&C/Multichannel News
. "Neither distributers nor broadcasters should be told by
government what they must do with their private property,
and that is precisely what would result from Senator Kerry's proposed

Broadcasters and
cable operators both say they want a free market, the difference is
cable operators argue that it is not currently free given that
there are must-carry rules, and must-buy rules and market exclusivity
rules that all favor broadcasters. Broadcasters say the retrans

Cobb told B&C that they were not against retrans reform, just reform that took the government deeper into the marketplace. 

"ATR believes that Sen. Kerry's draft bill calls for more and not less government intervention in this space, and this unacceptable from a free-market standpoin," said Cobb. "Our letter was directed specifically at the Kerry bill and other suggestions that government should take a further role, not at retransmission reform in general. If another bill on retrans arises, we obviously hope it's in a free-market direction that removes government from negotiations."

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.