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TV reform group looks to Congress over ad dispute

CBS's rejection of a radio ad in support of overhauling the nation’s television laws should draw the attention of Congress, a coalition including major cable companies said on Thursday.

The American Television Alliance — which includes major cable and satellite companies like Dish Network and Time Warner Cable as well as public interest organizations like the New America Foundation — announced on Thursday that all four CBS-owned radio stations that it tried to get to run its ad supporting a Senate plan rejected the offer.   

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“CBS’s actions are certainly unethical and deserve the attention of Congress,” said Brian Frederick, a spokesman with the TV reform coalition.

“It’s definitely not in the public interest to cut off voices because CBS disagrees with them,” Frederick added. “Broadcasters are stifling debate the same way they stifle innovation.”

An official with CBS said that the ad “did not meet our broadcast standards” and declined further comment. The National Association of Broadcasters declined to comment on the action.  

The four CBS radio stations are in St. Louis, Minneapolis, Las Vegas and Pittsburgh.

The ad supports a plan from leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee called Local Choice, which would allow consumers to pick and choose which broadcast channels they wanted included as part of their cable or satellite subscription. People would only pay for the broadcast channels they want, which supporters of the proposal say would give them more power and prevent station blackouts that sometimes occur as a result of fights between cable and broadcast companies.

Broadcast companies have fired back that the plan is unworkable and would make it harder for people to get local news and weather and emergency information.