Jess Peterson, executive vice president of the U.S. Cattlemen's Association, took to the electronics pages of The Hill to warn Congress not to rein in broadcasters retrans rights.
In a blog, Peterson said that his members rely on broadcasting for everything from agricultural reports and weather to sports and local news. "TV is at home on the range and on the farm," he said, providing encouraging words for broadcasters trying to steer the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) clear of a provision that free cable operators of the requirement to place retrans stations on the lowest (must buy) tier of service.
"Currently, cable packages across the country ensure viewers have access to local TV programing. However, Congress is contemplating legislation that could eliminate the current structure and provide a pathway for cable and satellite companies to remove this provision and instead force viewers to pay additional fees for local viewing access," Peterson wrote.
The House Communications Subcommittee is said by multiple sources to be working on a draft of STELA legislation that includes that and other cable-friendly provisions.
"Simply put, profits for the cable companies should not take precedence over free access to local programming, emergency alerts and weather warnings which should remain outlets available to all whether they receive it via free over-the-air broadcast TV or a pay-TV service on the basic tier," said Peterson.