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Sombke: Equal access to broadcast TV key to rural America

WASHINGTON -- The president of the South Dakota Farmers Union visited Capitol Hill earlier this month to urge lawmakers to act on pending legislation that would ensure rural Americans maintain access to their local broadcast television stations.

"Broadcast television is a key tool for rural Americans to obtain local news, weather and market data and emergency broadcast alerts," said Doug Sombke, South Dakota NFU president who also chairs the National Farmers Union legislative committee.

Specifically, Sombke met with Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., and asked him to support the Senate Judiciary Committee version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which was R-Iowa.

That bill, Sombke said, was a "clean re-authorization without the special-interest add-ons that some cable and satellite companies are seeking."

The law, which allows satellite providers to provide broadcast stations from outside the local market in limited circumstances, should be re-authorized before expiring at the end of the year, according to Sombke. However, he says some pay-TV providers are lobbying to add language that would make it easier to raise consumer prices and make local broadcast channels more difficult to access.

If these changes were to become law, Sombke said many rural television markets would suffer from reduced revenue, ultimately leaving fewer options for rural customers.