NRB Is Fighting for Its Right to Broadcast

Carriage battles are nothing new in the TV industry—and the religious- and faith-based programming arena is hardly absolved from the struggle. In fact, legislation introduced late last year could even exacerbate showdowns in that sector, programmers say.

In December, the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act was introduced by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.). The meausre would strike a number of provisions from federal communications law, including sections that establish the responsibility of pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their platforms.

The National Religious Broadcasters—a consortium of Christian TV and radio stations— has voiced concern that Congress not renege on its decades-old commitment to local television, particularly religious television.

“Scuttling the local channel carriage responsibilities of cable and other pay-TV platforms would be a significant detriment to a number of Christian TV stations and the viewers who rely on them for spiritual guidance,” Jerry A. Johnson, president/CEO of NRB, said in a statement shortly after the bill’s introduction. “These long-standing carriage rules ensure that viewers can access the important and edifying programming their local Christian broadcasters offer free-of-charge.”

“Must-carry” rules honoring free, local TV were enacted by Congress in 1992 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997.

This is not the first time the NRB has had to fight for its members’ continued carriage due to an FCC order. In 2012 the FCC decided that cable operators could fulfill their viewability obligation to make must-carry stations available to all subs by offering low or no-cost converters, rather than continue to require most operators to deliver the signals in both digital and analog formats.

The NRB argued that some of its stations are in very poor areas and that subscribers will not be able to afford the increased costs that come with digital television.

NRB Teams With NAB

According to a new study commissioned by NRB, suggestions that pay-TV providers have a capacity problem with carrying Christian TV stations “lack credibility.” The National Association of Broadcasters and the National Black Religious Broadcasters joined the NRB in commissioning the study.

“Any suggestions of technology-based capacity constraints that allegedly limit cable and satellite companies’ ability to continue offering existing and new TV program channels lack credibility,” said the study, conducted by telecommunications engineer Steve Crowley. “On the contrary, the advances described in this report indicate that the vast majority of paytelevision services will encounter few technical obstacles to increasing their program-carrying capacity for the foreseeable future.”

The study also looked at technological advances for cable and satellite networks. The paper found that continuing evolution in video compression (the technology used to reduce the number of bits needed to send video) has expanded satellite providers’ channel capacity.

It also argued that because pay-TV providers control their own distribution infrastructure, they can implement technological upgrades to their networks faster than other communications networks.


‘Bible’ duo, ‘Son of God’ screening highlight annual religious confab The National Religious Broadcasters Convention, which runs Feb. 21-25 in Nashville, has slated some extra star power this year.

Reality maven Mark Burnett (Survivor, The Voice) and his wife, actress and producer Roma Downey, the couple behind the popular miniseries The Bible, which averaged 11.36 million viewers for History last summer, will give a presentation and participate in an interactive discussion during the Saturday evening session on Feb. 22.

The following evening, there will be a full screening of Son of God, the feature film based on Burnett and Downey’s miniseries. Son of God marks the first major motion picture about Jesus’ life since Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which was released 10 years ago. Burnett’s follow up to The Bible, A.D., will air on NBC next year.

“We are excited to have Mark Burnett and Roma Downey join us at NRB 2014,” NRB president/CEO Jerry A. Johnson said in a statement. “We are also excited to host a full screening of Son of God before it reaches theaters on Feb. 28. [NRB] attendees will be blessed to hear from this faithful couple and to be among the first to witness what promises to be a major motion picture event.”