WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NAB Television Board Chairman Paul Karpowicz, president of Meredith Broadcasting Group, is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet. The subcommittee hearing focuses on the reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA) of 2004.
Karpowicz's prepared oral testimony is as follows:
Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Ensign, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you very much for having me here today. My name is Paul Karpowicz, and I am president of Meredith Broadcasting Group, which operates 11 television stations in small, medium, and large markets throughout the United States. I am also Chairman of the Television Board of the National Association of Broadcasters.
As you consider reauthorization of SHVERA, two long standing Congressional policies are paramount: localism and private party contractual agreements.
Localism has been a bedrock principle of national communications policy. Congress fosters broadcast localism by allowing stations to enforce program contracts that provide stations with the exclusive right to televise their programming in their markets. If a cable or satellite system serving one community is permitted to import the same programming from distant, out-of-market stations, the viewing audience of the local station will be fragmented -- advertising rates will plummet -- and the ability of local television stations to provide costly local news, weather, emergency information, and local public affairs programming will, plainly, be diminished. Local viewers will inevitably have less access to local television station news, weather, emergency, and public affairs programming.
Allowing cable and satellite companies to enter into exclusive program distribution contracts with their program suppliers, but depriving local stations of the same ability, will result in sports leagues and national program providers migrating their marquee programming to less restricted pay television services. Then only those consumers who can afford to pay for this programming will have access to it.
The benefits of digital television will be undermined if satellite carriers are allowed to exploit the digital transition by retaining or "grandfathering" distant signal subscribers they have recently signed up when those subscribers can easily receive the same programming from a local station.
Local stations can now provide three or four separate channels of free, over-the-air television programming, and they are using this new technology in creative and exciting ways. In "short-markets" -- those without a full complement of existing networks -- multicast channels are being used to provide the programming of missing networks for free that previously was only available to those who could afford cable or satellite. We are doing precisely that with a multicast channel of our Flint, Michigan station that is now broadcasting a new network that previously was unavailable locally. And, contrary to DIRECTV's testimony, we -- as other stations -- are providing local news, weather, sports, and local emergency information and local public service programming on these multicast channels.
These new multicast channels are also creating new opportunities for network programming aimed at minorities and other specialized audiences. The survival of these new and emerging networks is as dependent -- perhaps more so -- on local program exclusivity as existing networks. The Senate Judiciary Committee bill introduced by Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions wisely protects the program exclusivity of digital multicast signals, a result we strongly endorse.
Some Members of Congress have inquired about market modification legislation. We recognize Congressional concern for providing viewers with in-state, but out-of-market, broadcast programming, a concern that can be addressed without a change in the law. Cable and satellite systems can now retransmit locally produced programming from in-state, distant stations. In fact, our station in Atlanta has signed an agreement with a cable operator in northwest Georgia to allow it to carry non-duplicating, locally originated programming to Georgia residents in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, market. Similar in-state carriage arrangements with local television stations exist across the country. Regrettably, satellite carriers have refused to participate in these carriage arrangements.
NAB strongly supports the extension of local-into-local service to all 210 markets. Residents of Jonesboro, Arkansas, are served better in times of emergency by satellite carriage of Jonesboro's stations' weather and emergency information than by non-local programming from distant, out-of-market stations. Various proposals are under consideration to facilitate extension of local-into-local service to all markets, including the solution contained in the Senate Judiciary Committee's bill, which we endorse.
Thank you for the opportunity to testify. We look forward to working cooperatively with you as the reauthorization bill moves forward.
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at www.nab.org.