Wyden, Blunt Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Protections for Small, Rural TV Stations

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) today announced they have introduced bipartisan legislation that would strengthen spectrum rights for certain low-power television

(LPTV) stations, which fill important gaps in broadcast service, particularly in those rural communities outside the reach of a full power signal.

“Low-power television stations provide diverse, locally-oriented broadcasting in small communities across Oregon, especially in rural and remote areas of our state,” Wyden said. “I’m proud to join my colleague Senator Blunt in introducing this common-sense, bipartisan bill to empower LPTV stations that serve their communities.”

“Local television stations play a unique and critical role in their communities, keeping viewers informed, entertained, and alerted in an emergency,” said Blunt. “The Low Power Protection Act would help ensure smaller stations, especially those in Missouri’s rural areas, are able to continue providing coverage that people depend on. I appreciate Senator Wyden’s partnership in this effort and the strong support the bill has received from local, state, and national broadcasters. I look forward to continuing to work together to advance the bill.”

LPTV stations usually provide locally-oriented or specialized service in their communities. However, LPTV is currently considered a secondary broadcast service by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). As such, LPTV licensees are not granted protections from harmful interference or displacement, and must accept harmful interference or displacement from full power television stations,

In 1999, in an effort to protect LPTV stations from harmful interference or displacement during the transition from analog to digital broadcasting, Congress passed the Community Broadcaster Protection Act (CBPA). The law created the “Class A” station status, and opened a one-time filing window for stations to apply. CBPA directed that Class A licensees be subject to the same license terms and renewal standards as full power television licensees, and that Class A licensees be accorded primary status as television broadcasters as long as they continue to meet the requirements set forth in the statute.

Wyden and Blunt’s Low Power Protection Act would require the FCC to open a new filing window during which qualifying LPTV stations could apply for and receive Class A status. Class A status will protect LPTV stations from being bumped off-air by harmful interference. That, in turn, will help ensure they are able to continue providing local coverage, and allow them to better protect existing investment and incentivize further investment in their stations and communities.

The bill has garnered widespread support from numerous broadcast organizations and advocacy groups:

“The Oregon Association of Broadcasters would like to thank Senator Wyden and Senator Blunt as co-leaders of the Low Power Protection Act. This legislation will allow many low power television stations in rural areas to be granted ‘Class A’ status. This bill will assure countless viewers over the air access to local news, weather, emergency alerts, sports and network entertainment no matter where they live. Senator Wyden continues to support local broadcasters in their quest to provide quality service to the viewers in which they serve, keeping communities informed and safe.” – Oregon Association of Broadcasters

“The LPTV Broadcasters Association is grateful to Senators Blunt and Wyden for introducing The Low Power Protection Act. The LPTV Broadcaster’s Association strongly endorses the bill. It is an essential, meaningful initiative to serve the public interest. The Act is cited as “The Low Power Protection Act” and a key word is ‘protection.’ Much attention has been given to encouraging support for local journalism and jobs, and protecting television stations for the viewers they serve. Secure, trusted local news and culturally diverse content is the foundation of the programming that our members uniquely broadcast on a daily basis. Simply stated, this bill allows LPTV stations to grow to the next level in serving the public interest with both protection of broadcast coverage area and the ability to secure crucial small business financing. The LPTV Broadcasters Association on behalf of its members around the country is committed to seeing this legislation be passed.” – Frank Copsidas, Founder and President, LPTV Broadcasters Association

“NAB applauds the introduction of the Low Power Protection Act, which would offer some community-oriented low power television stations a long-overdue opportunity to gain important interference protections. Millions of viewers across the country rely on LPTVs for local news, weather, community affairs and emergency information, particularly in rural areas and smaller markets. This legislation would ensure Americans’ access to these vital stations and provide assurance that their signals can remain on the air. Broadcasters thank Sens. Wyden and Blunt for their efforts to help LPTVs and their viewers, and we support swift passage of this bill.” – National Association of Broadcasters

“Thanks to Senator Blunt and Senator Wyden for introducing the Low Power Protection Act in order for select low power television stations to be granted ‘Class A’ status. This bill is necessary in states like Missouri that have a large rural population in order to assure all viewers over the air access to local news, weather, alerts, sports and network entertainment no matter where they live.” – Missouri Association of Broadcasters

“Negative portrayals of the Latinx community and the perceptions that come from them are often due to the appallingly low levels of Latinx broadcast and media ownership. Low power television (LPTV) broadcasters tend to provide more unique and diverse programming directly to Latinx and marginalized communities, but often find their frequencies assigned to larger operators that disregard diversity. NHMC is proud to support the Low Power Protection Act–a solution that promotes media diversity by empowering LPTV broadcasters as Class-A licensees.” – Brenda Victoria Castillo, President and CEO, National Hispanic Media Coalition

“Low-Power TV licensees contribute to diverse, local programming throughout the country – from crowded urban areas to otherwise unserved rural communities. It is high time that LPTV stations that serve their communities have the opportunity to receive the benefits of Class A designation. This bill is long overdue, and Public Knowledge is happy to endorse it.” – Harold Feld, Senior Vice President, Public Knowledge