Rep. John Bryant (D-Texas) last week introduced legislation that would take away a cable operator advantage: the compulsory license that allows operators to carry broadcast signals for a single, flat fee rather than having to negotiate for carriage with each local broadcaster.

The new Bryant legislation states that those cable operators who “cherry pick” off certain local broadcast signals will be forced to negotiate for rights to carry other signals in the market.

The Bryant bill also would prevent cable operators from channel shifting a local broadcast signal out of its existing slot.

The legislation is being praised by independent broadcasters, who in recent years have expressed alarm over prospects that their signal will be removed from a system or channel-shifted to “cable Siberia.”

Assn. of Independent Television Stations prez James Hedlund said the Bryant bill “helps to preserve free local off-air television for all Americans” and “helps insure that we will not become a nation of information have and have-nots.”

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