Local TV Broadcasters Deliver Front-Line Reporting in Emergencies

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[Commentary] Moore, Oklahoma. Joplin, Missouri. New Orleans, Louisiana. The names of these cities are crystallized in the minds of Americans as the sites of catastrophic destruction and loss of life due to natural disasters.

However, in the dark cloud that hangs over the memory of these incidents, there is a silver lining: Many lives were saved because of the diligence, service, and sacrifice of local news stations in the face of dire circumstances. When Americans seek breaking news developments and real-time updates during times of crisis and emergency, they instinctively turn to their local broadcasters. They are a first line of defense for families, friends and neighbors when potentially life-changing weather events threaten their communities.

Today, millions of Americans rely on cable TV’s lifeline “basic service tier” to access broadcast channels for their news, weather updates and emergency alerts. Currently, pay-TV providers are required to place broadcast networks on this basic tier, so that all subscribers -- regardless of how much they pay for a particular package -- will have access to their local news.

However, pay-TV wants to strip this requirement in the reauthorization of a satellite TV bill -- a move that would force America’s cable TV subscribers into paying higher prices to access those same broadcast stations on more expensive, premium packages. This may leave some families without cable TV because they simply no longer will be able to afford it.

Given the important role of local TV broadcasters as front-line reporters in emergencies and the reliance of TV viewers on those live emergency updates, alerts and warnings, Congress should do all it can to defend and preserve the lifeline basic service tier on cable TV systems for all Americans.

[Kenny is the director of public affairs for TVfreedom.org, a coalition of local broadcasters, community advocates, network TV affiliate associations]

Local TV Broadcasters Deliver Front-Line Reporting in Emergencies