Religious Broadcaster Wants ‘Carry One, Carry All’ Regime for Virtual MVPDs

Dec 09, 2023

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband 

Washington, D.C., Dec. 9, 2023 – A religious broadcaster says new federal rules are needed for it to obtain carriage on streaming services like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV.

One Ministries, Inc. is turning to the Federal Communications Commission for help, claiming so-called virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) are neglecting its Christian TV station in northern California. One Ministries says it operators KQSL in the San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose market, the 10th largest in the country.

“As a full power Christian TV broadcaster, I am witness firsthand to the systematic exclusion by [virtual] MVPD operators to local religious TV stations and to independent stations in general,” One Ministries said in an unsigned comment to the FCC on Dec. 5.

One Ministries said new FCC rules should require carriage of its station if a vMVPD carries any other station in the same market.

“It is important for vMVPD operators that carry any one full power broadcast TV station in a market to carry all full power broadcast TV stations in a market, just as is the requirement for DBS operators DirecTV and Dish TV,” One Ministries told the FCC.

The ‘carry one, carry all’ regulation that applies to Dish and DirecTV is not identical to TV station carriage regulations that apply to cable systems. In a 1992 law, Congress said commercial and non-commercial TV stations could demand cable carriage at no cost to cable operators - the so-called 'must carry' rule. However, commercial TV stations may opt to seek fees from cable and satellite TV providers in a process called retransmission consent.

One Ministries’ appeal to the FCC footnoted a letter that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) sent on Nov. 21 to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel asking a number of questions about non-commercial educational (NCE) broadcasters that supply religious programming.

McMorris Rodgers asked to know how many NCE stations include religious broadcast programming currently and each year for the last five years, and how many are offered currently and each year for the last five years by virtual multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

“NCE stations are indispensable in promoting education, moral values, cultural and civic understanding, and are a unique voice in their communities,” said McMorris Rodgers in her FCC letter. “However, with the transition to unregulated streaming services, the voices of NCE stations are being left behind.”

McMorris Rodgers asked for the FCC to brief her staff no later than Dec.15.

YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, and Sling TV are known as vMVPDs because they offer linear channels, including local TV stations. The vMVPDs obtain access to local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates substantially by negotiating with the networks, not the local stations.

The National Association of Broadcasters, with support from a number of Senate Democrats, wants the FCC to adopt rules that would treat vMVPDs as if they were traditional MVPDs like cable and satellite TV companies.

In her Nov. 21 FCC letter, McMorris Rodgers repeated her view that the FCC should not “apply 1990s-era laws and regulations” to streaming service, saying Congress was responsible for updating the law governing streaming video services.