Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
NONDISCRIMINATORY RETRANSMISSION CONSENT IN H.R. 1554
(Extensions of Remarks - November 19, 1999)
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[Extensions of Remarks] [Page E2487] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] NONDISCRIMINATORY RETRANSMISSION CONSENT IN H.R. 1554 ______ HON. W.J. (BILLY) TAUZIN of louisiana in the house of representatives Thursday, November 18, 1999 Mr. TAUZIN. Mr. Speaker, as a conferee appointed to H.R. 1554, and as a proponent of competition, I deliberated long and hard to promote increased consumer choice in the video marketplace by strengthening the competitive position of satellite carriers as they go head to head with incumbent cable operators; however, they are not the only competitors in the evolving video marketplace. Since enactment of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, cable over- builders have acquired franchises all across the country and have begun to operate traditional wireline systems. In addition to these familiar distribution systems, several new digital wireless cable systems, which use microwave frequencies to transmit programming, also offer consumers a competitive alternative. Although incumbent cable systems still dominate the video distribution market, satellite carriers continue to gain market share and, with the advent of local into local, will see even greater consumer interest in their product. Unfortunately, the newer entrants--the over builders and the digital wireless providers--still face some pretty stiff obstacles in their efforts to penetrate this market. The single most significant hurdle they face is access to popular programming at fair prices. This issue has long-term significance for video competition and my subcommittee will continue to study this important problem. However, in the short- term, these new competitors are running into serious retransmission consent problems that prevent them from expanding as fast as they would like and that unnecessarily deprive consumers of an alternative choice. When attempting to renegotiate retransmission consent contracts, these new competitors are told they must take other programming services they do not want. Too frequently, they are told they must purchase a ``bundle'' of programming that includes the broadcast signal they want, but also includes programming in which the broadcaster or his affiliated network has a financial interest. As you might expect, ``bundles'' of programming cost a lot more than a single broadcast signal, and they take up valuable channel space that the new entrants would prefer to use for other programming--programming they choose to carry, not programming they are forced to carry. The bottom line is that these ``tying'' arrangements are not optional, they are forced on these new entrants as the quid pro quo for obtaining retransmission consent; impose higher programming costs on new entrants that put them at a competitive disadvantage vis a vis established players in the market; and take up valuable channel space which, in the case of wireless operators, is limited to the spectrum space available. If our efforts to increase consumer choice are to succeed, we must go beyond what we have been able to accomplish in H.R. 1554. I ask my colleagues to join me in a pledge to reopen the debate about nondiscriminatory retransmission consent and agree to study this matter further to see what additional steps we can take to strengthen the competitive position of all new entrants into the video marketplace. If we succeed, consumers will enjoy lower prices, better service quality and more choice. ____________________