Americans For Tax, But Not Retrans, Reform


Grover Norquist, president of Americans For Tax Reform, has asked the Senate Commerce Committee chair and ranking member not to support retransmission consent reform legislation as currently configured.

That came in a letter from Norquist and Kelly William Cobb of the Digital Liberty Project, to chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.).

The missive arrived the same day the Communications Subcommittee held a hearing on retrans, which touched on the bill drafted by Subcommittee chairman John Kerry (D-Mass.)

Norquist and Cobb were certainly not preaching to the choir with Rockefeller, who slammed the media during the hearing and said retrans reform was only the first step, and his full committee would be looking at cable rates and why channels are not offered a la carte. Hutchison did not speak at the hearing, but she is a longtime fan of the free market.

"We write urging you to oppose legislation, such as that proposed by Senator John Kerry, which would insert the government even further into private retransmission negotiations, where broadcasters and distributers determine how and at what price content is delivered to consumers," the pair wrote, according to a copy obtained by Multichannel News. "Neither distributers nor broadcasters should be told by government what they must do with their private property, and that is precisely what would result from Senator Kerry's proposed legislation."

Cobb told B&C that they were not against retrans reform, just reform that took the government deeper into the marketplace.

"ATR believes that Sen. Kerry's draft bill calls for more and not less government intervention in this space, and this unacceptable from a free-market standpoin," said Cobb. "Our letter was directed specifically at the Kerry bill and other suggestions that government should take a further role, not at retransmission reform in general. If another bill on retrans arises, we obviously hope it's in a free-market direction that removes government from negotiations."