A La Carte Dropped from STAVRA Bill

By Kevin Eck 

tv_304Deadline Hollywood reports broadcasters may be breathing a bit easier this week after a provision allowing consumers to pick which broadcast networks they want to pay for, called “Local Choice,” has been dropped from the Satellite Television Access and Viewers Rights bill.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WVa.) and John Thune (R-SD) agreed to remove the a la carte provision from the bill, saying it deserves more discussion.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which led the opposition, said it’s “thankful” that the committee recognized “the unintended negative consequences this measure would have had on localism, broadcasters and our millions of viewers.” It feared that stations would lose revenue if satellite customers could decline to pay for them — perhaps by supplementing their pay TV service with an antenna to pick up local over-the-air signals for free.

National Journal boils down both sides of the issue nicely.

The proposal wouldn’t have affected cable channels like ESPN, but it would have required broadcast networks like Fox, NBC, and CBS to set individual prices for their channels. Consumers could then choose which ones they wanted to pay for in an “a la carte” pricing system instead of the channels being part of larger bundles.

Supporters of Local Choice argued it could have helped consumers cut their skyrocketing cable bills.

But broadcasters launched a lobbying blitz against the proposal, warning it would limit access to local news during emergencies. They also argued that it would be unfair to impose an “a la carte” system on local broadcast stations but not little-watched cable channels like TruTV.