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Cranky broadcasters could get their licenses yanked

Wed, 05/15/2013 - 2:08pm
Brian Santo

TV broadcasters who pull their signals off the air might risk forfeiting their spectrum licenses, Sen. Mark Warner this week warned.

Warner’s threat is a response to broadcaster agitation with Aereo. Fox CEO Chase Carey last month vowed to pull Fox off the air and distribute exclusively through pay TV services if Aereo were allowed to proceed with its current business model.

Some Fox affiliates and some other broadcasters expressed support for the sentiment. Broadcasters are naturally angered that Aereo is redistributing their signals and offering no compensation for the privilege.

"Threatening to withdraw content because of these other challenges, that really raises for me the question of whether you ought to be able to keep that spectrum for free, which is a public good and maybe could be utilized for better public purposes," Warner said to Gordon Smith, the head of the National Association of Broadcasters, during a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee's subcommittee on Technology and the Internet. Warner was quoted by The Hill.

Responding to Warner, Smith said, "It seems to me that if someone takes copyrighted material, distributes it and charges for it, and does not do what other do, that's called piracy," Smith said.

Warner is not the only Senator suggesting that the government should pull the broadcast licenses of TV stations that move their programming exclusively to pay TV distributors. The exact same provision was included in a bill recently introduced by Senator John McCain.

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