NRB walked the halls of Congress this week to highlight the vital importance of “Must-Carry” laws, rules that enable many local television broadcast stations, including Christian stations, to be viewed on pay-tv platforms. Dr. Frank Wright, President and CEO of NRB, sent a letter of concern to the sponsors of the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act (H.R. 3675/S. 2008), which would remove a number of provisions from federal communications law, including sections that affect “Must-Carry,” retransmission consent, and media ownership rules.
Dr. Wright declared: "Specifically, by eliminating “Must-Carry” rules for local commercial television broadcast stations to be viewed on pay-tv platforms, rules that have been in place for decades, this legislation could be fatal to many Christian TV stations and may harm the ability of millions of Americans to continue accessing the religious programming on which they rely".
A NRB team then visited a number of key Capitol Hill offices to reinforce this message.
While supporters of the Next Generation Television Marketplace laud it as broad deregulatory effort, NRB has emphasized for years the great importance of “Must-Carry” rules for Christian television broadcasters. In public comments filed with the FCC in 2010, after noting that many Christian stations don’t benefit from retransmission negotiations, NRB asserted, “[H]istory of non-carriage of local broadcasters by cable companies prior to the “Must Carry” provisions strongly suggests that Christian television would disappear from cable in the absence of those rules.”
Today’s “Must-Carry” rights were enacted by Congress in 1992 and upheld by the Supreme Court in 1997. Congress then found that cable systems have an “economic incentive” to “delete, reposition, or not carry local broadcast signals” and that, without “Must-Carry” rules, the “viability” of broadcasters “will be seriously jeopardized.” There is little evidence to suggest that the TV marketplace has shifted from that reality.
NRB clearly declared its position in its comments to the FCC, “We oppose any change in the ‘Must Carry’ scheme. Any diminution of that rule would have a devastating effect on Christian television broadcasting.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations