NRB Member Advocates for Christian TV at 'Future of Video' Hearing

Sky Angel CEO Johnson cites difficulty religious and family-friendly programming has with cable industry


Sun Not Setting on Religious Stations After FCC Order

The FCC’s recent viewability order—which
removes the must-carry corollary that
requires cable operators with hybrid
analog/digital systems to deliver those TV
stations in both formats—led the National
Religious Broadcasters (NRB) to a position
of defending its place in American media.

The Communications & Technology
Subcommittee of the House Energy &
Commerce Committee held a hearing on
the “Future of Video” on June 27. Robert
Johnson, CEO of Sky Angel—a member
company of NRB at the center of an FCC
decision about what constitutes a video
provider—was invited to testify.

In advance of the hearing, Frank Wright,
president and CEO of NRB, registered his
belief that “Faith-based programming
should have an important place in the
future of American media.”

In his own written testimony, Johnson
cited the difficulty religious and familyfriendly
programming can sometimes
have with the cable industry. Sky Angel
is a distribution company that delivers
religious and family-friendly content via
broadband or “over-the-top” viewing.

“Like any new entrant, Sky Angel’s ability
to compete rests in large part on being
able to offer a variety of popular programming
options,” said Johnson, adding that
his company is “functionally identical” to
traditional multichannel video programming
distributors (MVPDs), which program
access requirements prohibit discriminating
against. “Unfortunately, the video
distribution marketplace remains willing
to engage in anti-competitive tactics in
order to harm emerging competitors, as
Sky Angel’s ongoing experience clearly
demonstrates,” Johnson said.

Sky Angel has been in a two-year battle
with Discovery Communications over a
distribution issue. Sky Angel accused Discovery
of halting their business ties, claiming
it was due to a concern that traditional
pay TV companies didn’t approve of the
relationship. “Although Sky Angel had timely
paid all fees to Discovery Communications
for two years, Discovery suddenly informed
Sky Angel that it planned to terminate their
contract,” Johnson said. Discovery has yet
to comment on the matter.

Johnson continued, “Sky Angel urges
Congress to ensure that there is a level playing
field so that it, and other new entrants,
may have the opportunity to compete fairly
for video subscribers and thus enhance the
public interest, and consumer choice, by
providing new opportunities and uses for
the Internet, now and in the future.”

David Barrett, president & CEO of Hearst
Television, backed his fellow broadcasters,
highlighting the importance of the mustcarry
law to smaller local broadcasters,
which include religious and faith-based
programmers. “These stations often target
audiences whose needs are not being
met by other programming sources,”
Barrett said. “Because these stations
serve narrower audiences, the ability to
elect mandatory carriage is important to
their continued survival. Carriage of these
unique stations’ signals is important to the
diversity of both free over-the-air broadcasting
and to the diversity of programming
available via MVPD service.”

“I, for one, do not believe we should be
expanding video regulation,” Subcommittee
chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said in
his opening remarks. “The last thing we
want is to shackle everyone’s entrepreneurial
spirit with one-size-fits-all rules
designed for another time.”