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Network Affiliates Urge Lawmakers to Preserve Distant-Signal Limits

NEW YORK: CBS and NBC are urging key lawmakers to maintain restrictions on what TV stations cable and satellite operators can carry in a given market. The networks today penned separate letters to members of the House and Senate committees handling the renewal of SHVERA, the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act.

“We understand that some of the proposals being considered for addition to SHVERA would allow cable and satellite carriers to import into local markets the signals of in-state, but out-of-market, television stations,” wrote Michael Fiorile, president and chairman of the NBC affiliate board. “Most importantly, these proposals would erode the long-standing principle of localism by diminishing local stations’ ability to negotiate for retransmission consent fees and earn advertising revenue, both of which support their television service--such as local news, weather, and sports--to their local communities.”

Fiorile said allowing carriage of out-of-market TV stations would allow carriers to play TV stations off of one another and cut into retransmission fees.

“These proposals also would erode the local station’s viewership based advertising revenues, because the importation of duplicative network programming would fragment the local station’s audience,” Fiorile wrote.

Scott Blumenthal, head of the CBS affiliate board, made a similar plea.

“Without these advertising and retransmission fee resources,” he wrote, “the local affiliates would cut local programming and services, including the very substantial coverage and other services they provide to viewers throughout the local market, which have strong community ties and common topography, weather and economic interests with local affiliates.”

Blumenthal said about half of the 210 TV markets in the United States would be affected by allowing out-of-market signal carriage.

“The rationale for these various legislative proposals is the laudable goal of making available to subscribers along state borders the local news and sports programming from their home-state, but distant stations,” Blumenthal said. “However, this can be accomplished without changing the existing law. Current law permits cable systems and satellite operators to arrange to carry this programming in these border areas. They only are restricted from carrying the duplicative network and syndicated programming which falls outside this laudable rationale and for which the local stations have paid valuable consideration to air in their home market.”