Religious Broadcasters Unveil 2024 Policy Agenda
By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband
Washington, D.C., Jan. 6, 2024 – Religious broadcasters expect the year 2024 to be a busy one, especially with regard to the policy agenda at the Federal Communications Commission under Chair Jessica Rosenworcel. They also plan to be active on Capitol Hill.
On Friday, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) under President & CEO Troy A. Miller unveiled its public policy agenda, outlining at a very high level the key policy issues the association will be monitoring over the next 12 months.
“As 2024 gets underway, NRB’s Office of Public Policy is working to advance NRB’s strategic priorities in the Nation’s capital and protect the rights and interests of Christian communicators in the legislative, regulatory, and legal arena,” NRB said on its website.
Based in Washington, D.C., the NRB describes itself as “a nonpartisan, international association of Christian communicators whose member organizations represent millions of listeners, viewers, and readers.” The organization says it is committed to protecting the free speech rights of its members.
Among the NRB's issues at the FCC is Net Neutrality, which is shorthand for imposing strict common carrier regulations on broadband ISPs under Title II of the Communications Act. The NRB opposed Net Neutrality when advanced by a Democratic-controlled FCC in 2015 and supported its repeal under a Republican-controlled FCC in 2018.
In October, the FCC adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking (NRPM) that calls for restoring the 2015 Net Neutrality rules.
“NRB opposes the reclassification of ISPs as Title II common carriers and the accompanying heavy-handed regulatory scheme, which constitutes a drastic and excessive expansion of federal regulatory reach while failing to address real threats of viewpoint discrimination by edge providers,” the organization said in Oct. 20 statement titled, “Net Neutrality: Here We Go Again.”
A second FCC issue is the classification of video streamers like YouTube TV. Unlike cable TV operators, online streaming services do not have to grant free carriage to local TV stations or negotiate fees to carry TV stations under retransmission consent rules.
“As a result, local and religious broadcasters are often presented with unfair or unfavorable take-it-or-leave-it carriage proposals from digital streaming platforms,” the NRB said in an Aug. 17 statement.
The FCC studied the issue in 2014 and didn’t take action. Rosenworcel testified before a House Subcommittee on Nov. 30 and repeated her view that Congress needs to decide the issue because she did not think the FCC had legal authority to classifying YouTube TV as a cable TV company.
The NRB is urging Rosenworcel to reconsider her view and update the 2014 record.
On Capitol Hill, the NRB will push for passage of the AM for Every Vehicle Act, which will require AM radio in passenger motor vehicles. The legislation gained strength after BMW, Mazda, Volvo, Volkswagen and Tesla removed AM radio or planned to, citing electromagnetic interference with electric vehicles as a reason. The Senate version of the bill cleared committee, but a Dec. 5 effort to pass it by unanimous consent failed. The House bill has more than 190 co-sponsors.
Another front-burner issue for the NRB concerns legislation altering Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996. The provision shields websites from lawsuits related to content posted by third-party users. Section 230 also allows website owners to engage in good-faith takedowns of objectionable material. NRB’s view is that Section 230 has wrongly protected Big Tech from lawsuits after removal of conservative and religious content from the most popular social media platforms.