WASHINGTON, D.C. -- NAB Executive Vice President of Government Relations Curtis LeGeyt testified this afternoon at a House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology hearing titled "RAY BAUM’S Act: A Bipartisan Foundation for Bridging the Digital Divide."
Below is his testimony as prepared for delivery.
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Good morning Chairmen Walden and Blackburn, Ranking Members Pallone and Doyle and members of the Subcommittee. My name is Curtis LeGeyt, and I am the executive vice president of Government Relations at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). On behalf of the thousands of free, local television and radio broadcasters in your hometowns, I appreciate the opportunity to testify on this Committee’s successful passage of RAY BAUM’S Act. This bipartisan legislation ensures that broadcast television and radio stations can continue to serve their communities following the unprecedented repack of nearly 1,000 full power television stations across the country. Moreover, I am personally honored to speak to this legislative success, fittingly named after our beloved NAB colleague, distinguished public servant and friend to everyone he met, Ray Baum.
I am confident that everyone on this Committee – members and staff alike – have fond memories of Ray. Before he was the staff director of this committee, I was fortunate to have worked with Ray as a close colleague at the NAB. On the surface, Ray and I had many differences. We are of different generations, different faiths, and different political leanings. But none of that mattered to Ray. He was unwavering in his desire to seek out common ground with everyone he worked with, and his genuine love of life was disarming not only to myself and our other colleagues at NAB, but also to our adversaries in the policy space. Having seen those diplomatic abilities first hand, I have no doubt that his spirit and unrelenting desire to put aside differences in advancement of shared priorities enabled the bipartisan working relationships on this Committee that resulted in the passage of RAY BAUM’S Act. For that, broadcast viewers and listeners across the country are thankful.
RAY BAUM’S Act will help ensure that broadcast viewers and listeners can continue to access the stations on which they rely. Thanks to the Committee’s inclusion of the Viewer Protection Act in the final law, $1 billion was provided to ensure that all impacted television and radio stations are eligible to have costs associated with this repack reimbursed by the FCC. Importantly, this legislation also funds FCC consumer education efforts as stations move channels, and includes the SANDy Act, so that local broadcasters can access critical resources to keep their facilities functioning during times of emergency. For all of this, I am here to say THANK YOU.
Now, as the FCC moves forward with a massively complex repack process, early warning signs suggest that viewers are at risk. In the first phase of the repack, which was completed two weeks ago, 79 stations successfully completed their moves on time. However, 11 broadcasters were unable to meet their move deadlines for reasons beyond their control, such as inclement weather and tower crew availability. We are gratified that the FCC granted each of these stations waivers and moved them into subsequent repack phases. In each of these cases though, these phase changes could be done without impacting future station moves. That will not be the case as the repack moves forward.
The Phase 2 deadline in April 2019 applies to 116 stations and is significantly more complex. While broadcasters will do everything possible to meet their deadlines, this Committee should ensure that the FCC applies a fair waiver standard that will not force a single station to go off the air or reduce coverage due to circumstances outside their control as Congress intended.
Beyond its policy improvements, the enduring lesson of RAY BAUM’S Act is that this Committee can lead and make meaningful differences when it works together on a bipartisan basis. In that spirit, there are two significant issues worthy of your ongoing consideration entering the next Congress. First, this Committee should ensure that existing users of “C-band” spectrum are fully protected and reimbursed should a portion of the spectrum be reallocated for mobile broadband use.
Second, this Committee should allow the expiring provisions of STELAR to finally sunset as Congress has long intended. This distant signal license is a subsidy for two of the largest pay-tv providers in the country, and incentivizes the satellite carriage of out-of-market rather than local broadcast stations. This practice runs contrary to Congress’s long-stated broadcast policy preference that viewers are best served by their LOCAL broadcast stations, and it is no longer justified.
In conclusion, I would like to thank you again for allowing me to speak about the bipartisan success of RAY BAUM’S Act. As Ray would say, “Thanks for coming out today!” I look forward to answering your questions.
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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.