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Senate Commerce Looks at Cable Act Overhaul

Washington, DC
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Because of great strides in the television marketplace, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is taking a fresh look at the twenty-year-old Cable Act on Tuesday.

The hearing, chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), discussed changes in television technologies over the past two decades.  It focused on examining the effectiveness of the Must-Carry law, a 1992 law currently in place for the cable industry.

The Must-Carry law requires a variety of local broadcast stations to be viewed on pay-TV platforms. Today’s Must-Carry rights were enacted by Congress in the 1992 Cable Act, which the Supreme court upheld in 1997.  Congress then found that cable systems have an “economic incentive” to alter their local broadcast signals and that, without Must-Carry rules, broadcasters' viability is jeopardized.

Tuesday's hearing was a follow-up to the Committee's April 24 meeting on the future of online video.  That hearing examined the effect that new technologies have on the existing television and cable market and the business models that are growing the cable industry.

Top cable and broadcasting executives, as well as law experts testify.  Witnesses include Melinda Witmer from Time Warner Cable; Martin Franks of CBS; the National Association of Broadcasters' Gordon Smith; Colleen Abdoulah from Wide Open West!; Gordon Smith from the American Cable Association; law professor and former Disney Washington executive Preston Padden; along with Mark Cooper from the Consumer Federation of America.

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:59am (ET)

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