ANA Helps Defeat “Local Choice” Threat to Broadcast Advertisers

September 10, 2014

A recent proposal that would require an a la cart approach to broadcasting and that would have adversely affected advertisers was successfully combatted this week. On September 8, ANA joined with the 4A’s and AAF to send a letter to Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), the Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and the Ranking Minority Member of the committee, Sen. John Thune (R-SD). The letter questioned their “Local Choice” proposal as part of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA). Local Choice is the popular name for the effort that would allow individuals to opt-out of paying for TV station signals, in effect creating an a la carte regime for broadcasting, but not for cable channels.

In our letter, we raised many concerns about the impact of this proposal on the longstanding local broadcast model, which ensures free over-the-air broadcast television for all Americans.  

Through the Communications Act of 1934, individuals receive free local news, weather, sports, and entertainment which are paid for by advertising revenues. Getting rid of a universally free broadcast system would greatly threaten advertisers who participate in the “up fronts” and otherwise support broadcasting through advertising.  

Advertisers see the value in supporting broadcast programming and would likely be unfairly harmed if the Local Choice proposal eroded the economics of the current system.  

With the push provided by our letter and additional opposition from several other groups, the Senate Commerce Committee has called off plans to vote next week on the Local Choice proposal. According to National Journal, a Commerce Committee aide explained that the proposal needs “more discussion and a full consideration” before it will be introduced again.  

The committee still plans to move forward with a reauthorization of the satellite TV legislation without the Local Choice provisions.  While we are very pleased with this recent turn of events, there is a possibility the proposal will also come up next year as Congress begins to rewrite the Communications Act. If this attack resurfaces, we will again urge lawmakers to proceed with extreme caution and seek out the views of the advertising community to better understand how Local Choice would affect the financial support for programming.

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