Commerce GOP Posts Video Promoting 'Local Choice'

Late Monday, the Senate Commerce Committee Republicans tweeted a link from a video promoting/explaining the Local Choice proposal of Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R- S.D.).

The tweet from the CommerceGOP account says: "Want more control over your cable bill & to #KeepMyTV? Try @SenJohnThune & @SenRockefeller's #LocalChoice proposal:"

That proposal, which they want to include as part of satellite license reauthorization legislation being teed up for September, would allow MVPD subs to choose whether they want to pay for stations who elect payment for retransmission consent. That also means the cable operators would not be required to deliver all retrans stations on the basic tier, since they would not have to deliver them at all to viewers who opted not to pay for them.

Essentially broadcasters would deal directly with viewers, with cable collecting the money and not allowed to mark up the price.

The three-minute video boasts that the plan would mean "No markups, no blackouts, no hidden costs."

The blackouts are the retrans blackouts that sometimes result when stations and MVPD's can't agree on price. The "hidden costs" are the retrans fee prices set by local broadcasters.

The no markups part is that MVPDs have to show the cost of retrans, and reduce cable bills by that amount for subs who opt not to take those channels. And broadcasters set the price of channels, with cable operators simply passing that offer through to subs.

"It's Simple. It's Fair. It's Local Choice," the video concludes.

It's also an uphill battle. The satellite bill must pass by year's end, and broadcasters are strongly opposed to the Local Choice plan. They have pointed out, for example, that the same choice does not extend to the cable channels that make up the majority of cable lineups and cable bills, and whose price.

John Eggerton

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.