Senate Republicans are promoting the notion of making local stations a la carte on cable networks with a new YouTube video.
Republican John Thune and Democrat Jay Rockefeller floated the idea of local choice earlier this month. The two Senators propose that viewers get to see how much they are paying for local broadcast stations, and get to choose which they recieve.
The idea has the potential for gaining bipartisan support, even in this bitterly divided Congress, as a consumer-friendly and nearly pure free-market solution. If broadcasters insist on escalating retrans fees, viewers will see precisely why their cable bills are increasing, and will be able to respond by dropping those stations they deem not worth the cost. If -- as many cable operators complain -- retrans fees are getting out of control, viewers won't pay them, and if consumers do pay the higher fees, they're publicly absolved of the rate increases.
Sens. Thune and Rockefeller are jockeying to add the provision to the STELA satellite TV bill now making its way through Congress.
The idea is embraced by the American Cable Association, and opposed by the National Association of Broadcasters. The NCTA, whose largest member is both a cable operator and a broadcaster (looking to increase its retrans income), has not taken a position.
The video was posted on the CommerceRepublican channel on YouTube, which is populated largely by videos featuring Sen. Thune, a member of the Senate Commerce Committee.