Legislation passed today by the House Judiciary Committee lacks pay TV-backed retransmission consent reforms. The committee’s vote means that the legislation at issue — which would reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, or STELA — has now gotten the nod of three of the key congressional committees with a say on the legislation.
The House Judiciary Committee approved satellite TV legislation today that did not include any of the retransmission consent reform provisions sought by pay TV industry lobbyists, winning the committee the applause of broadcasters.
“NAB strongly supports this practical approach,” said National Association of Broadcasters President-CEO Gordon Smith, in a statement.
“Today’s action by the full committee represents a convincing win for the American consumer,” added Robert C. Kenny, a spokesman for the broadcast-industry-backed TVfreedom.org.
But Brian Frederick, a spokesman for the American Television Alliance, a pay TV industry-backed group that has been leading the lobbying charge for retrans reform, told TVNewsCheck that his group will continue to fight to ax regulations that cleared the way for broadcasters to charge pay TV operators for retransmitting broadcast signals.
“It’s disappointing that the [House judiciary] committee failed to heed the call of its own members for action on retrans reform,” Frederick said in an interview. “There are clearly problems in the video market, and there is clearly member interest in fixing those problems.”
The House Judiciary Committee’s vote means that the satellite legislation at issue — which would reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, or STELA — has now gotten the nod of three of the key congressional committees with a say on the legislation.
One of the other committees — the Senate Judiciary Committee — also previously approved a STELA reauthorization bill that does not include retrans reforms.
A STELA reauthorization bill previously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee includes some retrans reform, but not the wholesale gutting of the regs that pay TV industry lobbyists have been promoting.
The fourth congressional committee with a say over the legislation — the Senate Commerce Committee — has yet to act on a STELA bill, and that the committee’s chair, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), could prove to be a wildcard on the issue, some lobbyists say.
The regulatory-minded Rockefeller has yet to introduce his own version of a STELA reauthorization bill. He also has yet to spell out what sorts of reform provisions, if any, his bill might include.
Still, some broadcast lobbyists say that the prospects for passage of a “clean” STELA bill by year’s end are improving, because a “dirty” bill — that is, one that includes major retrans reforms — will be opposed by broadcasters and is less likely to survive.
The key retrans reform in the STELA reauthorization bill previously approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee would bar TV stations from jointly negotiating retransmission-consent deals with independently owned stations in the same market — a provision that has raised some broadcaster concerns.
But the same legislation also includes a provision that would give broadcasters with joint sales agreements until the end of 2016 or later to unwind those deals. That’s more time to dissolve the sharing agreements than the FCC would allow under the JSA crackdown the agency adopted March 31.
STELA, which clears the way for satellite TV companies to retransmit distant TV signals into some local markets, has long been expected to be reauthorized by federal lawmakers before it expires at the end of the year.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D- Mich.), Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Chairman Howard Coble (R-N.C.), and Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) praised the committee’s approval of this legislation in a joint statement : “Today’s passage of the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act by the House Judiciary Committee ensures that our constituents have full access to network programming no matter where they live for another five years. Our constituents depend upon this license for entertainment, news, and sports. We look forward to working with our colleagues on the Energy and Commerce Committee and in the Senate to ensure that legislation to protect satellite consumers is in place before the Dec. 31, 2014, expiration of STELA.”