Rapid City Journal – Op-Ed By KOTA-TV’s Lia Green – THEIRS: Viability of Local TV in the Hands of Congress

We know that local news matters. We also know that accessibility is important.  There are many ways to connect and share information, but in our region, where cell phone coverage and broadband services are not fully accessible to everyone, free broadcast television remains a trusted, reliable source of community news. Even as our industry evolves and finds new ways to deliver content in innovative ways, our commitment to creating local content remains strong.

This is why I became a broadcaster. And it is why I joined hundreds of others from across the country in Washington, D.C., where I had the pleasure of meeting with U.S. Senators Thune and Rounds and Congresswoman Noem. I spoke frankly and asked that any regulatory changes to the video marketplace enable local television stations to advance a viable business model and continue supporting public service activities.

Make no mistake: communications policy decided in Washington, D.C., will be felt here in the Black Hills. New regulations could hit your pocketbook and affect how much you pay for the services offered by companies within pay-TV packages and online.  This is why we believe Congress should uphold the current “retransmission consent” system, allowing America’s local TV stations to negotiate fair, market-based compensation from pay-TV providers who resell our content to consumers as part of their subscription service. 

The revenue generated from retransmission consent helps us recruit and retain an experienced and skilled news team and invest in infrastructure upgrades. These dollars also support our community-based activities: from telethons to local health fairs and expos.  In addition to investment in local content, we urge lawmakers to support policies that empower local TV stations to decide best where local content should be distributed. For example, imagine the confusion if viewers in Rapid City received a storm advisory intended for viewers in Sioux Falls? Imported broadcast signals from non-local sources are disruptive and leave a void in the needs of a community, particularly when viewers are looking to broadcast TV for up-to-the-minute coverage of severe weather and emergencies.

A lack of locally-focused television stations would hurt the ability of local businesses to reach local residents with advertisements that help drive the commerce of community businesses.
Our viewers need locally-driven news. They need advertising on local channels that show what car dealerships are currently offering potential buyers in the Black Hills, or which local realtors are available to help families buy or sell homes in Ashland Heights.

The current rules governing broadcast television have fostered a strong spirit of localism, diverse programming options that have served our viewers well. I hold hope that our policymakers in Washington, D.C., will keep these goals in mind with laws that support local stations such as KOTA-TV.

About the author: Lia Green is president and general manager of KOTA-TV of Rushmore Media Company.