Religious Broadcasters Favor Choice


Trinity Broadcasting is not one of the participants that was asked to join in the Dec.12 follow-up to the Senate Commerce Committee's Nov. 29 indecency forum; the Motion Picture Association of America's Jack Valenti and the NCTA's Kyle McSlarrow were asked.

Not to worry. Trinity and a number of other religious broadcasters already followed up with the committee in a letter, almost immediately after the first forum. The letter spelled out just what they did and did not want to happen.
"Choice is key in determining how indecency standards should apply to non-broadcast television distributors," they said, but it has to be the right kind of choice.

What they want: more viewing choice if it is mandated cable carriage of broadcasters' digital broadcast signals. What they don't want: a "pure" a la carte cable scenario that lets viewers pick and choose among program offerings.

The broadcasters are not dead set against the choice afforded by a family-friendly programming tier, which FCC chairman Kevin Martin has proposed and at least one cable operator, Cablevision, has backed. But they write that "such a package is NOT a subsititute for must-carry."

In an a la carte world, they are afraid their niche channels would be a la carted out of existence. They fear the same of their multicast channels in a scenario without must-carry, given that they have little leverage to negotiate such carriage.

The letter, to Co-Chairmen Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), was signed by 16 broadcasters, with the best-known being Trinity's Paul Crouch. They are members of Religious Voices in Broadcasting, a coalition of broadcasters focusing on full-power TV station issues.

In addition to considering indecency legislation, the Senate Commerce Committee plans to address DTV issues like must-carry in an upcoming bill, though when it is upcoming is unclear.