February 11, 2009

Local TV Should Be Carried By Satellite Companies

On Tuesday, a U.S. lawmaker introduced legislation requiring satellite TV companies to carry local broadcasting regardless of the market, accusing the companies of ignoring less populated areas.

The legislation was introduced by Rep. Bart Stupak, a Michigan Democrat whose district includes rural areas.

According to Stupak, satellite TV companies target urban areas, putting rural areas at a disadvantage.

Currently, satellite TV companies operate under a "carry one, carry all" system.  If they carry one local station in a market, they must carry all the local broadcasters in that market. 

The companies can also simply choose not to carry any local stations.

"This has been a long-standing sore point between broadcasters and the satellite TV companies," Paul Gallant, analyst for the Stanford Washington Research Group, told Reuters.

According to DirecTV Group Inc, the legislation would force the company to spend large amounts of money with little chance of profit.

The company also said it plans to continue launching additional local stations.

Stupak believes now is the time to act on this legislation with Congress approaching the end of a five year span giving the satellite companies the right to carry television. 

Every five years, Congress must renew a bill giving satellite companies' the right to carry broadcasting.

Stupak says he has been pushing satellite companies to expand local service to all markets for years.

In a 2003 congressional hearing, DirecTV pledged to carry local broadcasting nationwide, but according to Stupak, the pledge has gone unfulfilled due to the lack of an established date.

Currently satellite companies do not provide local broadcasting in 31 of the 210 geographic markets, added Stupak.


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