Congress Wants to Update TV Laws To Address Cord Cutting & End Broadcast TV Blackouts





Watching tv and using remote control

Male hand holding TV remote control.This week House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Modern Television Acto of 2019. This bill would replace the 1992 Cable Act. Part of it would address TV blackouts and seek to increase competition in the world of TV.

“Congress today begins a reboot of the rules governing the video and television marketplace.  With the bipartisan introduction of the Modern Television Act of 2019, Representatives Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) recognize that the nearly 30-year-old TV rules are harming consumers.  Amid cord-cutting, growing video options and internet-based platforms, broadcasters use their special protections in current law to continue to demand price increases from the customers of cable and satellite distributors for TV programming that consumers watch less and less.  Unfortunately, the result of this broken system is an alarming number of TV blackouts, with over 200 TV blackouts across the country so far this year.” AT&T said in a statement sent to Cord Cutters News. “In order to protect our customers from these price increases and TV blackouts, AT&T supports Reps. Scalise’s and Eshoo’s legislation and we thank them for their leadership on this issue.  We are committed to working with Congress, broadcasters and others to modernize our video and television laws to benefit consumers.”

“Consumers and taxpayers should be encouraged by the bipartisan efforts of Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) setting requirements for a television broadcast station and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) to negotiate ‘marketplace agreements’ in good faith. With the proper light regulatory touch, channel blackouts can become a thing of the past. Scalise and Eshoo’s efforts show that it is time to modernize video programming rules and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is proud to support this legislation,” said David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

The Modern Television Act of 2019 does the following:

  • Extends the “Good Faith” negotiation requirements (that otherwise expire on December 31st) and applies these requirements to small- and medium-sized cable operator buying groups. This will allow smaller competitors to band together in negotiations for programming and lower costs for consumers. (Effective 90 days after enactment.)
  • Protects consumers from experiencing broadcast blackouts when MVPDs and broadcasters fail to extend an agreement by requiring MVPDs carry a broadcast signal while the parties continue negotiations for up to 60 days. Parties are retroactively paid for their content aired during this time. (Effective 90 days after enactment.)
  • Repeals retransmission consent, compulsory copyright licenses, and several other outdated statutory provisions and regulations. This would allow free-market contract negotiations to happen under traditional copyright law. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Establishes a mechanism by which the FCC may, but is not required to, compel parties to seek “baseball-style” binding arbitration through a neutral third-party arbitrator, following an extended impasse or a finding of bad faith. Consumers are protected from blackouts that otherwise would have occurred, and copyright holders are paid for their content during this process. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Preempts federal, state, and local authority to regulate rates of cable services. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report specific metrics about the impact of this Act on consumer and the marketplace every two years. Based on the totality of these metrics the FCC must determine if this Act has had a net positive, net negative, or indeterminate impact on consumers and the marketplace. If the FCC finds a net negative impact, it must recommend specific policies for Congress to improve the marketplace.
  • Ensures consumers have access to local programming by retaining the ability of a local television broadcast station to require carriage on cable and satellite providers in their local market. (Effective immediately, no change in law.)

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