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Broadcasters warn bill would ‘undermine’ TV

Representatives from the hundreds of local TV stations affiliated with NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox are warning the Senate Commerce Committee not to move forward with a bill that would change some features of the television market.

Chairmen of the four stations’ affiliate boards wrote to Commerce Committee Chairman Jay RockefellerJohn (Jay) Davison RockefellerSenate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Overnight Tech: Trump nominates Dem to FCC | Facebook pulls suspected baseball gunman's pages | Uber board member resigns after sexist comment Trump nominates former FCC Dem for another term MORE (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Through a national commitment to youth sports, we can break the obesity cycle Florida politics play into disaster relief debate MORE (R-S.D.) on Thursday to warn that their proposal “would undermine free access ... to high quality national network and local broadcast television programming.” 

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In particular, the stations are concerned about changes made to the system for beaming broadcast channels onto people's cable and satellite packages, known as “retransmission consent” agreements.

The bill, they wrote, “asserts unprecedented extension of [Federal Communications Commission] regulatory authority over private marketplace negotiations” and unfairly singles out broadcast companies for new limits.

“Singling out broadcasters and broadcasters, alone, for such enhanced regulatory treatment is patently unfair, discriminatory and anti-competitive, and it would create an even more uneven playing field between broadcasters and their principal competitors to the detriment of your constituents,” the four board heads wrote.

The changes broadcasters are protesting in the committee’s Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) are tacked onto the bill’s language renewing an otherwise uncontroversial law that lets some rural satellite subscribers watch distant broadcast channels.

Senators had previously included a more robust set of changes known as “Local Choice,” which would have allowed cable and satellite subscribers to pick and choose which broadcast channels they wanted included on their bill. The Commerce Committee dropped that proposal earlier this week, saying that it needs “more discussion and a full consideration” before become law.