Pols try radical TV deregulation

DeMint, Scalise introduce bills in Senate, House

Congress is winding down the year, most members mindful that it will be that much harder for any legislation to come to life in an election year.

Those odds have not stopped Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) from sponsoring legislation that would essentially gut some of the most significant regulations on the TV business.

Called the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, the bills introduced in the House and the Senate would repeal provisions of the Communications Act that require cable operators and satellite providers to carry stations in individual marketplaces. It would repeal the “retransmission consent” and “compulsory license” provisions that govern negotiations between broadcasters and cable operators. And it would repeal ownership limits on local media outlets.

Good luck with that.

Given the howls protest that can come from just a proposed change in wording in any one of the current regulations, the legislation is unlikely to get very far. But DeMint and Scalise get to burnish their brands as deregulatory crusaders.

“What we now have is a complex web of outdated regulations that must be addressed comprehensively and cannot be dealt with individually, in isolation from one another,” DeMint said. “This bill does not reflect an interest in promoting or protecting one technology over another or one competitor over another.”

Scalise said that the “government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers.”

DirecTV issued a statement praising the legislation. To no surprise, broadcasters were not enthused.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters “respectfully opposes the legislation. Current law ensures access to quality local news, entertainment, sports and life-saving weather warnings. The proposed changes to the Communications Act strike at the core of free market negotiations and broadcast localism, thereby threatening a community-based information and entertainment medium that serves millions of Americans each day.”