from the National Farmers Union
WASHINGTON – Doug Sombke, president of South Dakota Farmers Union, visited Capitol Hill last week to urge lawmakers to act on pending legislation that will ensure rural Americans maintain access to their local broadcast television stations.
“Broadcast television is a key tool for rural Americans to obtain local news, weather and market data and emergency broadcast alerts,” said Sombke, who also chairs the National Farmers Union Legislative Committee. “Discriminating against some customers just because they live in smaller markets is wrong.”
Specifically, Sombke met with Sen. John Thune, S.D.-R, and asked him to support the Senate Judiciary Committee version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which was recently introduced by Chairman Patrick Leahy, Vt.-D, and Ranking Member Chuck Grassley, Iowa-R.
That bill, he said, was a “clean reauthorization without the special-interest add-ons that some cable and satellite companies are seeking.”
The STELA law, which allows satellite providers to provide broadcast stations from outside the local market in limited circumstances, should be reauthorized before expiring at the end of the year. But some pay-TV providers are lobbying to add harmful language that would make it easier to raise consumer prices and make local broadcast channels more difficult to access.
If these changes were to become law, Sombke said many rural television markets would suffer from reduced revenue, ultimately leaving fewer options for rural customers.
For example, if a rural area broadcaster couldn’t afford to stay in business, its local viewers might only have access to large broadcasters that operate in far-away states or big cities, which would not provide the local news, weather and emergency alerts important to local communities.
“Senator Thune and many rural lawmakers are very aware of the situation and are sympathetic to the difficult position a STELA with stripped-down consumer protections could cause their constituents in rural America,” Sombke added. “We thank them for their support.”
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