Scalise, Eshoo Introduce Modern Television Act of 2021

March 11, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.) today introduced the Modern Television Act of 2021, a bill to repeal outdated regulations of the 1992 Cable Act, including retransmission consent and compulsory copyright license, to increase competition in the TV marketplace and to better address perennial broadcast TV blackouts.

"Congress needs to finally modernize the outdated 1992 video laws that no longer fit today’s technology. Our bill brings back basic copyright protection laws, so that everyone gets paid for their products, and consumers get to choose whatever they want to buy, wherever they want to buy it, and watch whatever they want on any device they choose,"said Whip Scalise.

“My constituents know all too well the frustrations caused by TV blackouts and rising cable prices. There were 327 blackouts in the country last year, including one as recently as December 2020 impacting my District. Until we modernize outdated video laws, blackouts will continue to happen while market prices surge,” said Rep. Eshoo. “I’m proud to partner with Congressman Scalise to introduce this legislation to protect consumers, encourage market competition, lower prices, and bring an end to broadcast blackouts."
The Modern Television Act of 2021 does the following:

  • Protects consumers from experiencing broadcast blackouts when multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs; i.e., cable and satellite carriers) and broadcasters fail to extend an agreement by requiring MVPDs carry a broadcast signal while the parties continue negotiations for up to 60 days. Parties are retroactively paid for their content aired during this time. (Effective 90 days after enactment.)
  • Repeals retransmission consent, compulsory copyright licenses, and several other outdated statutory provisions and regulations. This would allow free-market contract negotiations to happen under traditional copyright law. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Establishes a mechanism by which the FCC may, but is not required to, compel parties to seek “baseball-style” binding arbitration through a neutral third-party arbitrator, following an extended impasse or a finding of bad faith. Consumers are protected from blackouts that otherwise would have occurred, and copyright holders are paid for their content during this process. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Preempts federal, state, and local authority to regulate rates of cable services. (Effective 42 months after enactment.)
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to report specific metrics about the impact of this Act on consumer and the marketplace every two years. Based on the totality of these metrics the FCC must determine if this Act has had a net positive, net negative, or indeterminate impact on consumers and the marketplace. If the FCC finds a net negative impact, it must recommend specific policies for Congress to improve the marketplace.
  • Ensures consumers have access to local programming by retaining the ability of a local television broadcast station to require carriage on cable and satellite providers in their local market. (Effective immediately, no change in law.)

Read what key stakeholders are saying about the legislation:

“This legislation is important for consumers and content providers and is needed to temper the constant back-and-forth between operators and providers.  Ultimately, this legislation will lead to a better-functioning cable market. Consumers would no longer have to bear the brunt of countless blackouts and dueling press releases between companies.  The Taxpayers Protection Alliance applauds Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Steve Scalise (R-La.) for moving forward in a bi-partisan manner to fix this problem," said David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance.

"This bill has the right approach: Instead of continuing to tweak the current cumbersome and duplicative system of compulsory copyright licenses, with broadcaster retransmission consent negotiations layered on top, it would shift the video marketplace to one based purely on privately-negotiated copyright. At the same time, it would eliminate a number of protectionist rules that have outlived any usefulness they may once have had. We commend Congresswoman Eshoo and Congressman Scalise for working together on a bill that advances the conversation on video marketplace regulation and which takes an overall approach that, if enacted, would benefit consumers and promote competition and lower prices," said John Bergmayer, Legal Director, Public Knowledge.

"National Taxpayers Union (NTU) applauds House Republican Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) for introducing the Modern Television Act, and demonstrating their commitment to reforming and updating outdated telecommunications laws for a modern television marketplace. Repealing these archaic laws and regulations is the key to unlocking a free market that innovates, promotes competition, lowers costs for consumers, and reduces disruptive blackouts...," said the National Taxpayers Union.

“New America’s Open Technology Institute welcomes this bipartisan effort by Reps. Eshoo and Scalise to protect consumers from TV blackouts and constantly rising cable prices that result from today’s broken system for negotiating retransmission consent. We have advocated for additional reforms, but the combination of deregulation and good faith bargaining rules proposed by Reps. Eshoo and Scalise, including baseball-style arbitration, is a compromise that will serve consumers far better than the current, temporary STELAR rules," said Michael Calabrese, Director of the Wireless Future Program, New America’s Open Technology Institute.

"CCAGW supports the Modern Television Act as introduced by Reps. Steve Scalise and Anna Eshoo. At a time when more video content is streamed across multiple platforms, this much-needed legislation will reform and modernize the retransmission of content by multichannel video distributors, and help prevent television blackouts if retransmission carriage negotiations with broadcasters hit an impasse," said the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste.
“The Modern Television Act of 2021 will ensure that Americans will no longer have to worry about losing access to marquee TV events like the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Olympics because of retransmission consent battles between broadcasters and subscription TV providers. Representatives Scalise and Eshoo should be commended for modernizing an outdated regulatory regime that does little more than protect big media companies while leaving TV viewers out in the cold. Congress should pass this bill without delay," said Gigi Sohn, Distinguished Fellow at Georgetown Law Institute for Technology Law and Policy and former Counselor to the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.


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