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).
Wireless companies and others claim that current amounts of spectrum allocated for high speed wireless
Internet service are not sufficient to meet the expected increase in consumer demand over the
next few years, and have urged the federal government to reallocate spectrum for future wireless
broadband use. When the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) staff released its National Broadband Plan, it reflected these arguments, calling for the reallocation of spectrum, including airwaves currently used by local television broadcasters.
The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) enables satellite carriers to retransmit the signals of distant television network stations and superstations to satellite dish owners for their private home viewing. This Act is set to expire at the end of the year. If Congress determines that reauthorization is necessary, the extension should not be a vehicle to reopen well-established copyright and retransmission consent provisions that are outside the scope of this Act. Specifically, the reauthorization of this legislation should not serve as a backdoor mechanism to harm broadcasters' ability to provide viewers with unique, locally-focused service.
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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.