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Cable Technology Feature Article

July 24, 2012

Congressional Committee to Review Decades-Old Cable 'Must Carry' Law

By Tracey E. Schelmetic, TMCnet Contributor

Telecommunications laws that are decades old are – let's face it – likely to be more harmful than beneficial. Advancements in broadcasting technology, the rise of the Internet and streaming video, more satellite providers and changes in the way people receive entertainment have mandated that many of these older laws get a badly needed revision.

For this reason, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee plans to take a more in-depth look at the 20-year-old Cable Act today.

The hearing, chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), will discuss changes in television technologies over the past 20 years, according to C-Span is reporting. It will apparently focus on examining the effectiveness of the 1992 Must-Carry law, requiring locally-licensed television stations to be carried on pay-television platforms.

The existing Must-Carry law was enacted by Congress in the 1992 Cable Act, which the Supreme court upheld in 1997. Congress then found that cable systems have an “economic incentive” to alter their local broadcast signals and that, without Must-Carry rules, broadcasters' viability is jeopardized.

Today's hearing is a follow-up to the Committee's April 24 meeting on the future of online video. The hearing examined the effect that new technologies have on the existing television and cable market and the business models that are growing the cable industry.

A number of broadcasting executives are expected to testify: Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable's Melinda Witmer, Martin Franks of CBS, the National Association of Broadcasters' Gordon Smith, Colleen Abdoulah from Wide Open West!, Gordon Smith from the American Cable Association, law professor and former Disney (News - Alert) Washington executive Preston Padden, and Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America.

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Edited by Braden Becker

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