THE TELEVISION CONSUMER FREEDOM ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - March 24, 2004)
HON. RON PAUL
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 2004
Mr. PAUL. Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce the Television Consumer Freedom Act, legislation repealing regulations that interfere with a consumer's ability to obtain desired television programming. The Television Consumer Freedom Act also repeals federal regulations that would increase the cost of a television.
My office has received numerous calls from rural satellite and cable TV customers who are upset because their satellite or cable service providers have informed them that they will lose access to certain network and cable programming. The reason my constituents cannot obtain their desired satellite and cable services is that the satellite and cable "marketplace" is fraught with government interventionism at every level. Local governments have historically granted cable companies franchises of monopoly privilege. Government has previously intervened to invalidate "exclusive dealings" contracts between private parties, namely cable service providers and program creators, and has most recently imposed price controls. The Library of Congress has even been delegated the power to determine prices at which program suppliers must make their programs available to cable and satellite programming service providers.
It is, of course, within the constitutionally enumerated powers of Congress to "promote the progress of Science and Useful Arts by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the Exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." However, operating a clearing-house for the subsequent transfer of such property rights in the name of setting a just price or "instilling competition" via "central planning" seems to be neither economically prudent nor justifiable under this enumerated power. This process is one best reserved to the competitive marketplace.
It is impossible for the government to set the just price for satellite programming. Over regulation of the cable industry has resulted in competition among service providers for government privilege rather than free market competition among providers to offer a better product at a lower price. While federal regulation does leave satellite programming service providers free to bypass the governmental royalty distribution scheme and negotiate directly with owners of programming for program rights, there is a federal prohibition on satellite service providers making local network affiliates' programs available to nearby satellite subscribers. This bill repeals that federal prohibition so satellite service providers may freely negotiate with program owners for programming desired by satellite service subscribers. Technology is now available by which viewers could view network programs via satellite as presented by their nearest network affiliate. This market-generated technology will remove a major stumbling block to negotiations that should currently be taking place between network program owners and satellite service providers.
This bill also repeals federal laws that force cable companies to carry certain programs. These federal "must carry" mandates deny cable companies the ability to provide the programming their customers' desire. Decisions about what programming to carry on a cable system should be made by consumers, not federal bureaucrats.
The Television Consumer Freedom Act also repeals federal regulations that mandate that all TVs sold in the United States contain "digital technology." In complete disregard of all free market and constitutional principles, the FCC actually plans to forbid consumers from buying TVs, after 2006 that are not equipped to carry digital broadcasts. According to Stephen Moore of the CATO Institute, this could raise the price of a TV by as much as $250 dollars. While some television manufactures and broadcasters may believe they will benefit from this government-imposed price increase, they will actually lose business as consumers refrain from purchasing new TVs because of the government mandated price increase.
Mr. Speaker, the federal government should not interfere with a consumer's ability to purchase services such as satellite or cable television in the free market. I therefore urge my colleagues to take a step toward restoring freedom by cosponsoring my Television Consumer Freedom Act.