Deborah D. McAdams /
08.05.2012 06:42 PM
The Demise of Retrans
LOS ANGELES: I’m often surprised at how little TV station personnel know about what goes on in Washington, D.C. that may affect their livelihood. I understand this to a degree. Everyone has more than enough work to do on a daily basis, and it’s the job of lobbyists to look out for the interest of broadcasters in D.C. But no other business is under as much pressure to fold up and go away as broadcast TV, which has not yet made flames come out of faucets as far as I know.

Remember the Faculty Scholarship Series paper from 2009 when a Duke University Law professor suggested regulating broadcasters out of business?

“One may regard a set of proposed regulations as foolish and likely to hobble the industry regulated, but perhaps desirable if one believes that we would be better off without that industry,” wrote Stuart M. Benjamin. “I consider this question with respect to spectrum policy.”

Surely the judiciary would block that level of government manipulation, right? Since 2009, broadcasters have been required to control loudness levels, caption streamed video, post ad rates online, relinquish buffer bands, implement an incomplete Emergency Alert System protocol, and anticipate a second channel repacking in 40-percent fewer frequencies, while dealing with years of uncertainty with regard to media ownership and indecency laws.

Now, the very copyright law that protects TV signals from out-and-out piracy is under attack on Capitol Hill. Why? For one thing, it’s inconvenient for those who want to resell the signals for a profit without paying for them. Signal copyright is also the foundation of the retransmission consent legal regime. Without it, TV broadcasters don’t have the protection that nearly anyone else can invoke on YouTube.

The dismantling of retransmission law is just a matter of time.

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