LA: Senate panel OKs TV change

Posted on April 24, 2008 - 6:45am.

La. Senate panel OKs TV change
4/23/2008, 5:28 p.m. CDT
The Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — State government, not police juries and city councils, should control the franchise fee process for television service around the state, a Senate panel voted on Wednesday.

The chief supporter of the bill, AT&T Inc., said the change would encourage more companies to begin offering TV service in Louisiana, heightening competition and lowering prices for consumers.

The Senate's commerce committee approved the measure 6-1 despite opposition from parish and city government officials who complained that the state was trying to snatch control over a significant part of their income.
The loss of control would likely mean a drop in revenue, said Dan Garrett, a lobbyist for the Police Jury Association.

"This bill strips local governments of franchise authority," Garrett said.

Companies offering television service currently reach an agreement with local governments, which then impose a franchise fee that is passed on to consumers. AT&T Inc. is already expanding its television service throughout the state.

Under Duplessis' bill, local governments would still collect the fees — ranging from 3 percent to 5 percent of gross receipts — but the companies would register with the secretary of state's office.

James Richardson, an LSU economist, testified that he conducted a study paid for by AT&T that found the change in law would likely lead to greater competition and lower prices for consumers. He argued that the change would mean local governments would receive more revenue, because lower prices would attract more customers. Existing customers would also opt for more expensive television packages — moving up from "basic cable," for instance — as prices came down, he said.

The bill by Duplessis, D-New Orleans, moves to the full Senate.

Former Gov. Kathleen Blanco vetoed similar legislation in 2006, citing the objections from local governments.

( categories: AT&T | LOUISIANA | State Franchises )