As far as broadcaster interests were concerned, Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) was playing both the good cop and bad cop at a Commerce Committee hearing Tuesday on the migration of video online. DeMint alone among the senators in attendance pressed Aereo TV investor and acolyte Barry Diller about his service, which broadcasters are essentially unilaterally opposed to.
He suggested to Diller that his antenna farm/cloud DVR service for delivering TV station signals over the Internet seemed to be a case of intercepting and retransmitting content without paying for it, and did not seem assuaged by Diller’s explanation that it was just a technological advancement on the in-home TV antenna and DVR.
Certainly broadcasters don’t see it Diller’s way, and appeared to have a champion in DeMint.
But DeMint also put in a strong plug for his bill, the Next Generation Television Marketplace Act, which would deep-six the retransmission consent-must carry regime through which TV stations are compensated for cable and satellite retransmissions.
He said that the current communications regs were written for a time and marketplace that no longer exists.
That sentiment was shared by virtually all of the senators and witnesses at the hearing, but there was not a similar agreement on just how the 1996 Telecommunications Act should be modified to reflect the advent of the ‘net.
He called the compulsory license and retrans regimes government interventions that meddle in the marketplace and are in need or repeal, hardly music to the ears for broadcasters increasingly seeking and getting cash for their valuable signals.
DeMint said he hoped the Commerce Committee would hold a hearing on his bill. Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller did not immediately accede to that request, but did say he expected to be sitting next to DeMint in the future.
DeMint is currently the ranking member of the Communications Subcommittee, and is likely the next ranking member of the full committee after Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) exit at the end of this session, or even the chairmanship if the Senate were to come under Republican control after the election.