Television Legislative and Regulatory Issues
In a response to growing complaints about poor cable service and high rates, Congress passed the 1992 Cable Act, which intended to curb cable rates that were excessively increasing and far outpacing inflation. The Act also included the right for local television broadcasters to negotiate with cable in a free market for use of their signals (known as retransmission consent).
When Congress authorized the broadcast incentive auction, broadcasters were assured that participation was voluntary and stations that did not volunteer would be held harmless. To this end, Congress authorized $1.75 billion dollars in the Television Broadcaster Relocation Fund (Fund) to cover the reasonable costs necessary to relocate broadcasters to new channel assignments following this auction. Congress also included a 36-month timeline for broadcasters to submit requests for reimbursement.
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Advertising revenue is critical to local TV and radio stations that rely on those dollars to serve local communities with vital news and information and high quality entertainment. As Congress considers initiatives that impact advertising, including restrictions on food marketing and a moratorium on television commercials for new medicines, it should avoid legislation that threatens free speech and increases federal agencies' authority to excessively restrict advertising on which local stations rely.
Virtually all states provide, either by statute or by judicial decision, protections to journalists so that they are not forced to reveal the identity of confidential sources. In federal courts, however, there is no uniform set of standards to govern when information about confidential sources can be sought from reporters. Broadcast journalists' ability to bring important matters to the American public has been put in jeopardy as numerous reporters have been questioned about their confidential sources or had their records subpoenaed in cases before federal courts.
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Local radio and television stations believe localism is best sustained by permitting broadcasters to compete effectively in the digital multichannel marketplace. Allowing stations to compete in the marketplace by reforming unnecessary restrictions would help them maintain economic vibrancy and the ability to serve their local communities in an ever-changing and competitive media landscape. Out-of-date restrictions on ownership of broadcast outlets that do not reflect current competitive realities in the digital age should be modernized.