House Attention to Low-Power, Satellite Television Legislation

NRB members with television ministries may be particularly interested in two happenings this week in the House of Representatives. 

On Thursday, the Communications Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee held a hearing highlighting the precarious situation of numerous low-power television (LPTV) stations in light of the upcoming spectrum auction. Disagreement was evident on the panel on how best to address this subject. However, NRB has repeatedly called on the FCC to purposefully protect programming choices for Americans, specifically the religious and family programming that NRB TV Members provide free of charge to local communities. Indeed, NRB has specifically highlighted the “no-alter” clause in the Spectrum Act for LPTV. Congress stated in the law, “Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to alter the spectrum usage rights of low-power television stations.”

“A number of LPTV stations that provide important religious and family programming free of charge to local communities may potentially be at risk in the upcoming spectrum auction,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, in response to this week’s hearing. “I urge Congress to ascertain what steps the FCC will be taking to keep low-power stations from simply being forced off the air.”

NRB continues to urge a process that fairly honors the services and investments of Christian television broadcasters in their local communities. Available online are NRB’s formal comment on the spectrum auction and an additional letter filed earlier this year with the FCC specifically on LPTV.

In addition, earlier in the week, the House of Representatives approved a reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which is set to sunset this year unless Congress acts. Thankfully, the House bill passed without alterations to rules establishing the responsibility of pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their base platforms. NRB has been vocal in its concern that Congress not abandon the decades-old commitment to “Must Carry” rules for local television, particularly religious television. Indeed, Dr. Johnson has declared, “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.”

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: July 25, 2014