CBS stations refuse to air ads promoting la carte TV

Michelle Clancy
| 29 August 2014

CBS radio stations around the country have refused to air a new ad from the American Television Alliance that supports a new proposal called 'local choice,' recently unveiled by the bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee.

A bipartisan legislative proposal by US Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member Senator John Thune (R-S.D.), local choice would open the door for la carte TV programming.

The proposal puts forth the idea to let subscribers to cable and satellite services be allowed to choose which broadcast channels they want to pay for as part of their multichannel package a move that would reduce retransmission fee revenue for broadcasters (which comes in at about $4 billion annually and is steadily increasing), but which would give pay-TV operators more leverage when it comes to content carriage negotiations, thus hopefully heading off the TV blackouts that sometimes arise.

CBS is clearly on the side of preventing the proposal from going anywhere.

"CBS's actions are certainly unethical and deserve the attention of Congress," ATA spokesman Brian Frederick said. "It's definitely not in the public interest to cut off voices because CBS disagrees with them. Broadcasters are stifling debate the same way they stifle innovation."

All four CBS-owned stations rejected the ad: KMOX in St Louis, WCCO in Minneapolis, KXNT in Las Vegas and KDKA in Pittsburgh.

"Local choice will put an end to the back-and-forth negotiations between broadcasters and cable and satellite companies," said a narrator in the radio ad. "Instead, viewers can decide which local channels they want to pay for. Local choice will help update our TV laws to the 21st Century."

Local choice is part of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) reauthorisation that is up at the end of the year.

"Local choice allows broadcasters to receive the fair market value they've been claiming they don't receive and gives consumers choice," Frederick said. "There's no such thing as TV freedom when the government forces consumers to pay for broadcast channels they may not want."