Conservative Group Asks Congress Not to Scrap Retrans in Reg Reform Bills

The American Conservative Union has asked Congress to oppose portions of House and Senate deregulatory bills that would scrap retransmission consent.

ACU, whose board includes Grover Norquist and former Hewlett-Packer CEO Carly Fiorina, said that the retrans marketplace is functioning and that "stripping away" compensation for use of the broadcast signal the government would "be tipping the scales heavily to the side of the pay-TV companies."

"Despite what you might hear, under the present system there is no epidemic of service interruptions that adversely affect consumers and cause them to miss widely-viewed events like the Super Bowl," said the group. "In fact this is a marketplace in which over 99 percent of negotiations are settled with no service interruptions."

Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) last December introduced the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act in Senate. The sweeping and unlikely-to-pass legislation would throw out the retrans regime and local ownership rules. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) introduced a House version of the bill.

That deregulatory chainsaw was aimed at clearing out "decades-old" regs they argue represent the government inappropriately picking winners and losers.

ACU is no big fan of regulation, and points out that it supports some of the bills deregulatory measures. But they suggested that the retrans marketplace was working and that the government didn't need to inject itself into that marketplace.

"Senator Jim DeMint is to be commended for trying to reduce unnecessary regulations and there are provisions in the bill we would consider supporting," they wrote. "However, one of the major outcomes of the bill would be to strip away the negotiation process known as ‘retransmission consent.' This process created a marketplace to ensure that broadcasters were compensated by pay-tv providers for the use of their signal and content."

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.