Debate over video laws will again come into focus on Capitol Hill next week. With provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) set to sunset at the end of this year, the Communications and Technology Subcommittee of the House Energy & Commerce Committee will hold a hearing on that law’s reauthorization on Wednesday. However, it is likely that discussion on this subject will broaden out to other communications law battles that have been simmering for some time. In particular, rules related to broadcast television signals on cable and satellite are likely to come to the forefront.
Significantly, in an initial draft of reauthorization legislation released by the committee Thursday, rules establishing the responsibility of pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their base platforms are not altered. NRB has been vocal in its concern that Congress not abandon the decades-old commitment to local television, particularly religious television. Indeed, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, 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.” Moreover, at the recently concluded NRB International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, the NRB Board of Directors, a body of approximately 100 key leaders in Christian media, unanimously approved a Resolution stating, “History 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.” 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.
Notably, Senate Commerce Committee leaders are also soliciting input on how wide of a communications law net to cast as they begin their review of STELA. NRB will continue to be vigilant in this area of great importance for Christian television ministries.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: March 7, 2014