House Energy & Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) has asked FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel for information and a briefing on the state of the video marketplace for noncommercial educational and religious television programmers.
On November 21, Rodgers sent a letter to Rosenworcel requesting information about “the state of competition and barriers to entry of noncommercial educational (NCE) broadcast stations, specifically religious broadcast stations.”
“As you know, I have expressed my concerns with any attempt to apply 1990s-era laws and regulations to virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (vMVPDs),” Rodgers wrote. “As Congress examines the state of the media marketplace and examines potential reforms to the laws that govern it, I request information regarding how NCE television stations are carried by programming distributors.”
NCE stations are indispensable in promoting education, moral values, cultural and civic understanding, and are a unique voice in their communities. Their impact exemplifies the values of localism and diversity enshrined in the Communications Act of 1934 (Communications Act) by serving their communities beyond the screen. However, with the transition to unregulated streaming services, the voices of NCE stations are being left behind.
Rodgers requested a staff briefing on the issue no later than December 15, 2023, to include the following information:
- The number of noncommercial educational television stations that are offered currently and each year for the last five years by Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (MVPDs).
- The number of noncommercial educational television stations that are offered currently and each year for the last five years by vMVPDs.
- The number of NCE stations that include religious broadcast programming currently and each year for the last five years.
- Whether MVPDs or vMVPDs charge NCE television stations to be carried currently or have charged NCE television stations in any year over the last five years.
In October, NRB President & CEO Troy A. Miller and NRB’s policy team held meetings with Rodgers and numerous members of the House Subcommittee for Communications & Technology to discuss the state of the video marketplace for noncommercial and religious programmers and the challenges of obtaining carriage on virtual television platforms, which are not subject to the “must-carry” rules governing traditional linear platforms.
“We applaud Chair Rodgers for taking this important step to gather information about the impact of current video marketplace dynamics on noncommercial and religious television stations,” Miller said. “As an association representing Christian programmers, many of NRB’s members are affected directly or indirectly by the trend of exclusion of religious broadcasters from virtual linear television platforms. As Chair Rodgers noted in her letter, religious broadcast stations, including NRB members, play an important role in promoting moral values and viewpoint diversity in America. We are grateful for her leadership on this issue.”
NRB continues to monitor and engage lawmakers and regulators on this issue and champion fair platform access for noncommercial educational (NCE) and religious broadcasters.