Legislation threatening the ability of many viewers to watch their local Christian television stations was re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives this week. The Next Generation Television Marketplace Act would remove 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. While supporters of this bill laud it as a broad deregulatory effort, NRB was quick to voice its concern that Congress not renege on its decades-old commitment to local television, particularly religious television.
Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, 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.”
“Must Carry” rules honoring free, local television were enacted by Congress in 1992 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997, and NRB has emphasized for years the great importance of these rules for Christian television broadcasters. Indeed, earlier this year the NRB Board of Directors, composed of nearly 100 key Christian media leaders, asserted in a Resolution:
[H]istory of non-carriage by cable companies prior to “Must Carry” provisions suggests that religious TV would again be ignored in the absence of those rules. Indeed, rather than carrying family-friendly programming, the cable industry appears more inclined to seek profits from programming that includes sex, violence, and profanity inimical to the development of healthy families and communities.
The Board then called on Congress to uphold these local TV carriage obligations and to recognize the important place of Christian TV ministries for viewers.
In response to this week’s bill introduction, Dr. Johnson further stated, “These longstanding carriage rules ensure that viewers can access the important and edifying programming their local Christian broadcasters offer free-of-charge.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: December 13, 2013