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Groups Push Hill on Exclusivity

Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), Taxpayers Protection Alliance and the Center for Individual Freedom (CFIF) are sending out "Dear Legislator" letters letting Congress know that while they still think it needs to do more reforming of retrans, the groups support the "first step" of eliminating the broadcast exclusivity rules.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler in August circulated an order that would eliminate the syndicated exclusivity and network non-duplication rules that prevent MVPDs, except in a few specific circumstances, from importing duplicative distant TV station signals into local markets.

In their letters, the groups suggest the rules are a government thumb on the scale for broadcasters that the FCC needs to remove.

"We believe that the federal government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers or tilting the playing field in any industry," CFIC said in its letter.

"While CAGW would support additional retransmission-consent reforms similar to those included in the Next-Generation Television Marketplace Act introduced in 2012 by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Chairman Wheeler’s proposal is a first good step toward modernizing the rules that regulate the video marketplace" CAGW told legislators in its letter.

Cable operators support eliminating the rules, calling them an unnecessary regulatory backstop to private contracts, which can still protect exclusivity and localism, while broadcasters are pushing back hard, saying eliminating the rules threatens localism and their business model.

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.