Cable-backed coalition hits airwaves to overhaul TV

A coalition that includes major cable and satellite television companies is launching a national campaign in support of a Senate proposal to transform the way people watch TV.

The American Television Alliance — which includes companies including Verizon, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, as well as consumer interest groups like Public Knowledge and the Parents Television Council — has launched a radio and print ad campaign in more than a dozen states to back the plan from Sens. Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerBottom Line World Health Day: It's time to fight preventable disease Lobbying World MORE (D-W.Va.) and John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneSenate GOP to face off over earmarks next week Biden outreach on infrastructure met with Republican skepticism McConnell seeks to end feud with Trump MORE (R-S.D.).


The proposal from the two leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee would dramatically change the way people get broadcast networks like NBC and ABC through their cable or satellite company. Instead of including those channels by default, the senators’ “Local Choice” proposal would have consumers choose whether to purchase individual broadcast channels as part of their subscriptions.

For the TV lobbying group, it lays the groundwork for “the biggest viewer celebration ever.”

“Local choice will put an end to the back-and-forth negotiations between broadcasters and cable and satellite companies,” a narrator said in the radio ad running as part of the campaign. “Instead, viewers can decide which local channels they want to pay for. Local choice will help update our TV laws to the 21st Century.”

The American Television Alliance is spending well into six figures on the campaign, according to an industry source familiar with the buy.

Senators backing the plan have said that the proposal would prevent channel blackouts that occasionally occur as result of fights between cable and broadcast companies, and would also give consumers power over their TV bills.

Thune and Rockefeller will need to overcome significant obstacles to get the bill passed this year, though, with the clock ticking before the midterm elections and the end of the congressional calendar looming.

Broadcast companies have revolted against the plan and said that any overhaul of the way people watch TV channels should be done in a carefully negotiated process.