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Dispute over broadcast rights

Washington A debate going on in Washington could affect the way that people watching their local television stations and others across the country.

A dispute over broadcast rights and whether television should be free, or whether viewers should have to pay for their favorite programs is heating up.

When a major crisis happens, people turn to their local television stations, relying on free, over the air broadcasts to keep them informed.

A battle between cable companies and broadcasters is brewing in Washington over money.

The pay TV model is to drive local television stations out of business so they can jack up rates higher than they already are, Dennis Wharton of the National Association of Broadcasters said.

The dispute is over retransmission consent, which means cable providers must pay over the air broadcasters for the right to deliver their programming to pay television customers.

An alliance of cable companies says broadcasters are asking for higher retransmission rates, which leads to higher bills for the viewer.

Cable companies and satellite providers already pay for every network they carry, including ESPN, AMC and Discovery Channel, which all charge the cable companies to be carried, at much higher rates than local broadcasters.

Broadcasters argue that fees paid by cable companies are key to sustaining local news, sports and weather, while also making it possible to continue providing free broadcast services to the community.

Ultimately what happens with broadcast revenues is that theyre reinvested into the local community, Wharton said.

Its a battle that could be decided in Congress as key legislation awaits passage. Both sides agree that the outcome could ultimately change how we watch television.

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Washington Times