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Eshoo, Scalise Introduce Modern Television Act of 2019

July 25th, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) and House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) today introduced the Modern Television Act of 2019, a bill to repeal outdated regulations of the 1992 Cable Act, including retransmission consent and compulsory copyright license, to increase competition in the TV marketplace and to better address perennial broadcast TV blackouts.

Watch Congresswoman Eshoo and Whip Scalise announce this bipartisan legislation by clicking here or on the image.

“These outdated laws aren’t just bad for the market, they’re hurting consumers. When blackouts take place, consumers are held hostage during the disputes between the broadcasters and the cable company. This year, there have been over 200 blackouts. That’s more than double the number from a few years prior. In fact, my constituents are facing major broadcast blackouts right now. These outdated regulations end up hurting consumers in their wallets,” said Congresswoman Eshoo.

“It’s the end of the road for the outdated 1992 video laws. It’s time for Congress to finally modernize these laws. Our bill goes back to basic copyright protection, so that everyone gets paid for their product, and consumers get to choose whatever they want to buy, wherever they want to buy it, whatever device they want to watch their video on,” said Whip Scalise.

The Modern Television Act of 2019 does the following:

  • Extends the “Good Faith” negotiation requirements (that otherwise expire on December 31st) and applies these requirements to small- and medium-sized cable operator buying groups. This will allow smaller competitors to band together in negotiations for programming and lower costs for consumers. (Effective 90 days after enactment.)
  • Protects consumers from experiencing broadcast blackouts when MVPDs and broadcasters fail to extend an agreement by requiring MVPDs carry a broadcast signal while the parties continue negotiations for up to 60 days. Parties are retroactively paid for their content aired during this time. (Effective 90 days after enactment.)
  • Repeals retransmission consent, compulsory copyright licenses, and several other outdated statutory provisions and regulations. This would allow free-market contract negotiations to happen under traditional copyright law. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Establishes a mechanism by which the FCC may, but is not required to, compel parties to seek “baseball-style” binding arbitration through a neutral third-party arbitrator, following an extended impasse or a finding of bad faith. Consumers are protected from blackouts that otherwise would have occurred, and copyright holders are paid for their content during this process. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Preempts federal, state, and local authority to regulate rates of cable services. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report specific metrics about the impact of this Act on consumer and the marketplace every two years. Based on the totality of these metrics the FCC must determine if this Act has had a net positive, net negative, or indeterminate impact on consumers and the marketplace. If the FCC finds a net negative impact, it must recommend specific policies for Congress to improve the marketplace.
  • Ensures consumers have access to local programming by retaining the ability of a local television broadcast station to require carriage on cable and satellite providers in their local market. (Effective immediately, no change in law.)

 

Read what key stakeholders are saying about the legislation:

“Consumers and taxpayers should be encouraged by the bipartisan efforts of Reps. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) setting requirements for a television broadcast station and multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) to negotiate ‘marketplace agreements’ in good faith. With the proper light regulatory touch, channel blackouts can become a thing of the past. Scalise and Eshoo’s efforts show that it is time to modernize video programming rules and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is proud to support this legislation,” said David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance

“This bill has the right approach: Instead of continuing to tweak the current cumbersome and duplicative system of compulsory copyright licenses, with broadcaster retransmission consent negotiations layered on top, it would shift the video marketplace to one based purely on privately-negotiated copyright. At the same time, it would eliminate a number of protectionist rules that have outlived any usefulness they may once have had. We commend Congresswoman Eshoo and Congressman Scalise for working together on a bill that advances the conversation on video marketplace regulation and which takes an overall approach that, if enacted, would benefit consumers and promote competition and lower prices,” said John Bergmayer, Legal Director, Public Knowledge.

“National Taxpayers Union (NTU) applauds House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) for introducing the Modern Television Act, and demonstrating their commitment to reforming and updating outdated telecommunications laws for a modern television marketplace. Repealing these archaic laws and regulations is the key to unlocking a free market that innovates, promotes competition, lowers costs for consumers, and reduces disruptive blackouts…,” said the National Taxpayers Union.

“New America’s Open Technology Institute welcomes this bipartisan effort by Reps. Eshoo and Scalise to protect consumers from TV blackouts and constantly rising cable prices that result from today’s broken system for negotiating retransmission consent. We have advocated for additional reforms, but the combination of deregulation and good faith bargaining rules proposed by Reps. Eshoo and Scalise, including baseball-style arbitration, is a compromise that will serve consumers far better than the current, temporary STELAR rules,” said Michael Calabrese, Director of the Wireless Future Program, New America’s Open Technology Institute.

“Television viewers are experiencing far too many media blackouts because the law has failed to keep pace with today’s technology and innovative video services. The bipartisan Modern Television Act of 2019 updates telecommunications laws to accommodate and invigorate a competitive marketplace and will help to protect consumers against future media blackouts,” said Thomas A. Schatz, President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.

“The Modern Television Act of 2019 will ensure that Americans will no longer have to worry about losing access to marquee TV events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Olympics because of retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and subscription TV providers. Representatives Scalise and Eshoo should be commended for modernizing an outdated regulatory regime that does little more than protect big media companies while leaving TV viewers out in the cold. Congress should pass this bill without delay,” said Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy and former Counselor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

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