WASHINGTON WATCH: Changes In The FCC's Viewability Rule Could Mean You Won't See Your Favorite Black Pastors On TV (VIDEO) | Roland Martin Reports

WASHINGTON WATCH: Changes In The FCC’s Viewability Rule Could Mean You Won’t See Your Favorite Black Pastors On TV (VIDEO)

If you’re getting your local TV stations over your cable system, and you still have an old-style, analog TV, you could lose your ability to see your favorite Black preachers.

The FCC has unanimously voted to end its so-called “viewability rule” in December. The rule allows analog cable TV subscribers access to broadcast TV signals without the need to pay for a digital converter. The end of the rule is being protested by a group of African-American pastors.

Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative joined Roland Martin on the set of Washington Watch to explain how this will negatively affect your ability to watch religious programming.

MR. MARTIN:  Welcome back.

If you’re getting your local TV stations over your cable system, and you still have an old-style, analog TV, you could lose your ability to see your favorite Black preachers.  The FCC has unanimously voted to end its so-called “viewability rule” in December.  The rule allows analog cable TV subscribers access to broadcast TV signals without the need to pay for a digital converter.  The end of the rule is being protested by a group of African-American pastors.  Here to explain how this will negatively affect your ability to watch religious programming is the Rev. Anthony Evans, President of the National Black Church Initiative.

Explain this rule and how it’s going to keep folks from actually watching these various programs of various ministers.

REV. ANTHONY EVANS:  The whole point around to the DTV from analog to digital was to make sure that when they switched from digital, that the analog system doesn’t go out.  Then –

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

REV. EVANS:  — the cable box give[s] the digital signal, so that they can receive local television.  But cable want[s] our membership to view our ministry to buy another box on top of the box – [chuckles] – that they have on their cable.  Then this will be a ba- — major economic problem.

MR. MARTIN:  Because you have people who have local – local shows, local ministries, and – and you have local must-carry rules, and they’re –

REV. EVANS:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  — those are on cable television –

REV. EVANS:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — all of a sudden, if you don’t have these digital boxes, you’re not going to be able to pick up these channels.

REV. EVANS:  Right.  You’re going to get cut off.

We have about 150,000 Black churches in the country, and I think that – basically, that about 15 percent of those churches – and – and we’re talking about those churches who are dealing with cable that is still analog and is – in the – our rural areas.  And our rural churches really [are] the strength of our churches in a large – large percent[?].

MR. MARTIN:  Now – now, first of all, you spoke of Black churches; but, clearly, other ministries will also be affected –

REV. EVANS:  No – no question.  We’re –

MR. MARTIN:  — so – so –

REV. EVANS:  — talking –

MR. MARTIN:  — what is –

REV. EVANS:  — about ru- —

MR. MARTIN:  — the partnership like?  Are other – are other church groups – are Hispanic pastors, White pastors, rural pastors – are all – they also raising their voices on this issue?

REV. EVANS:  — well, they haven’t been, but they will do it.  We will be reaching out to communicate our position to them and soliciting their support as we move forward.

We have options here.  There is a thought to sue the FCC to make sure that the rule does not go into effect, and then there’s other options in terms of advocacy.

MR. MARTIN:  I mean the reality is it used to be [in the] early 1970s, 98 percent of the country, they had broadcast television.  We all – we basically had free programming.

REV. EVANS:  Absolutely.

MR. MARTIN:  And so – and [for] people at home, that means ABC; NBC; CBS; later, Fox.

REV. EVANS:  All the major –

MR. MARTIN:  Then you have your Pu- — Public Broadcasting stations.  And then the independent stations came along.  Obviously, for us at TV One, we’re an actual cable network.

REV. EVANS:  — right.

MR. MARTIN:  You have new, Black networks, like Bounce TV and Soul of the South.  They’re actually broadcast channels.  And so what really is jumping out here is, do you believe that the problem here is that, essentially, what used to be free over-the-air broadcast is turning into a totally paid system?  And so do you believe that, with this rule, the FCC is basically helping to wipe out free broadcast?

REV. EVANS:  There’s no question about it, and we’re going to fight it.

MR. MARTIN:  It — it’s amazing what happens when tech- — technology forces a change.  People don’t anticipate the other changes that come with it.

REV. EVANS:  This is one of many things that is coming down the pipe, and that’s why we’re fighting this issue – because we’re going to fight every major issue that the FCC rules on, even if it does not affect u[s], but we know it will, logically, because we are the participer- — participatory in this economy.

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.  Thanks a bunch.  We appreciate it.

REV. EVANS:  Good to be here with you.