Legislation that could harm the ability of many viewers to watch their local Christian television stations was revived in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. By rolling back a number of communications rules, including laws requiring pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their platforms, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) believes his re-introduced Next Generation Television Marketplace Act (H.R. 6465) “will level the playing field so consumers can benefit from even more freedom in the video marketplace.” However, NRB is urging Congress not to renege on its decades-old commitment to local television, particularly religious television.
“I have high regard for Rep. Scalise, but I respectfully urge caution,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president & CEO of NRB. “Congress was right to ensure pay-TV corporations honored local communities, and removing those responsibilities is a mistake. Without pay-TV's 'Must Carry' duties, in particular, Christian TV stations and the neighborhoods that depend on them would be severely harmed."
NRB has stressed the importance of the longstanding community responsibility of cable and satellite platforms to carry local TV, including religious broadcasters, and even helped commission a report further revealing how sound and unobtrusive this Must Carry duty is. NRB has also defended syndicated exclusivity rules that provide a mechanism by which broadcasters with contracts to provide certain programming in their communities can seek relief from activities by pay-TV companies that could undermine those contracts.
In a 2014 resolution, the NRB Board of Directors, a body of approximately a hundred key leaders among Christian communicators, unanimously called on Congress “to uphold its decades-old commitment to carriage of local TV channels on pay-TV platforms,” specifically by opposing efforts to eliminate or weaken current Must Carry law. The Board further urged the government to recognize the important place of religious TV ministries for viewers.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: July 27, 2018