WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty senators have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the Commission to refresh its nearly decade-old proceeding examining the digital television streaming marketplace. The letter asks the FCC to solicit new public comments about virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPD) and whether federal action is needed to ensure consumer access to local broadcast programming on online platforms.
In the letter, the senators express concern regarding their constituents’ continued ability to access programming from local broadcast television stations on digital streaming platforms. The senators urge the Commission to reexamine its proceeding, first opened in 2014, that solicited comments about whether federal regulations governing pay-TV providers such as cable and satellite providers should extend to streaming platforms that offer linear programming.
The letter cites the growth in online video platforms since the proceeding was opened and the impact the ongoing shift to streaming is having on consumers’ access to public safety information and local news.
“In light of these marketplace changes, we urge the Commission to examine the video marketplace and seriously consider how it can ensure the viability of local broadcast stations and promote localism,” reads the letter. “As the expert agency, the Commission should be developing a record and recommendations to ensure that our regulatory system – which has enabled a thriving locally-focused broadcast system that is the envy of the world – is not undermined by the explosion of new technologies that were not foreseen even a mere decade ago.”
“Broadcasters play a vital role in providing verified and factual information to the public about their local community and events taking place around the world,” said National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Curtis LeGeyt. “Though the television marketplace has changed dramatically in recent years, viewers still expect and deserve access to their local TV news stations – no matter the platform. We are grateful to Sen. Luján and his Senate colleagues for urging the FCC to examine the impact of streaming on viewer access to local broadcast stations by refreshing the record in the virtual MVPD proceeding. This builds on the leadership and correspondence earlier this year from Chair Cantwell who has also urged the FCC to examine this issue. We are grateful that these senators are committed to ensuring the public’s continued access to the critical local news and public safety information local TV stations provide.”
The letter, led by Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), follows a similar letter from Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) in June urging the FCC to refresh its vMVPD proceeding. In addition to Luján, the letter is signed by Sens. Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Angus King (I-ME), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Tina Smith (D-MN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).
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