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TVFreedom Slams Reported STELA Bill Proposals

TVFreedom, the new group backed by TV stations looking for Congress and the FCC to stay out of retransmission consent, doesn't like the sounds of a Republican draft of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) said to be in the works.

In response to reports, including in B&C/Multi, that current proposals include getting rid of the requirement that cable operators put TV stations on their basic tier, TVFreedom spokesman Rob Kenny said: "We are outraged by stealth efforts of pay-TV to eliminate consumer access to broadcast TV on the basic cable tier. Forcing the most popular stations off this 'basic-lifeline-cable-tier' could deprive customers of local news, emergency information, and severe weather warnings that are only provided by broadcasters. This bad deal being driven by pay-TV interests will most severely impact Latinos, seniors and lower-income families who are most heavily reliant on over-the-air broadcast and basic tier TV when disaster strikes."

The National Association of Broadcasters had said its member would be forced to fight the bill if it contains such a provision.

It is unclear whether removing the must-buy mandate would apply only to stations who negotiate retrans payments, or for must-carry and noncommercial stations as well.

The House Communications Subcommittee, which is said to be working on the draft, is holding a hearing March 5 on STELA featuring witnesses from the broadcasters, cable and satellite operators and video services.