TVFreedom Slams Reported STELA Bill Proposals

Calls it a pay tv 'stealth effort' to eliminate 'lifeline' service to seniors, low income families
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TVFreedom, the new group backed by TV stations looking for Congress and the FCC to stay out of retransmission consent, doesn't like the sounds of a Republican draft of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) said to be in the works.

In response to reports, including in B&C/Multi, that current proposals include getting rid of the requirement that cable operators put TV stations on their basic tier, TVFreedom spokesman Rob Kenny said: "We are outraged by stealth efforts of pay-TV to eliminate consumer access to broadcast TV on the basic cable tier. Forcing the most popular stations off this 'basic-lifeline-cable-tier' could deprive customers of local news, emergency information, and severe weather warnings that are only provided by broadcasters. This bad deal being driven by pay-TV interests will most severely impact Latinos, seniors and lower-income families who are most heavily reliant on over-the-air broadcast and basic tier TV when disaster strikes."

The National Association of Broadcasters had said its member would be forced to fight the bill if it contains such a provision.

It is unclear whether removing the must-buy mandate would apply only to stations who negotiate retrans payments, or for must-carry and noncommercial stations as well.

The House Communications Subcommittee, which is said to be working on the draft, is holding a hearing March 5 on STELA featuring witnesses from the broadcasters, cable and satellite operators and video services.