President Obama has signed into law the Satellite Television and Localism Act, which extends the ability of rural satellite subscribers to access broadcast channels. The legislation extends authorization for satellite subscribers to access farway broadcast channels through Dec. 31, 2019.
The Senate passed a five-year extension of a satellite TV law that allows more than 1.5 million people to continue to receive broadcast channels through satellite providers. The Senate approved H.R. 5728, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which expired at the end of the year, through a unanimous consent agreement on Thursday. The House passed the same measure on Wednesday, meaning it now heads to President Obama’s desk for his signature before becoming law.
The House on Wednesday approved a five-year extension of a satellite TV law that would continue to allow more than 1.5 million people to receive broadcast channels through their satellite provider. A reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which expires at the end of the year, was approved with a few changes by voice vote.
House Commerce’s Republicans and Democrats are ready to introduce a compromise version of the Satellite Television Extension Localism Act today. The new bill combines provisions from a STELA bill the House passed earlier and Senate Commerce’s version of the bill, STAVRA (Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act). The legislation, to be introduced by Fred Upton, Greg Walden and ranking member Anna Eshoo, would prohibit joint retrans negotiations and eliminate the set-top box integration ban, according to a committee spokesman.
One retrans reform provision that is expected to be included in the revised version of the Senate bill would, like a similar measure included in legislation approved by the House, bar TV stations in the same market from coordinating retrans deal negotiations, unless those stations are jointly owned.
The Senate is expected to vote on its version of the so-called STELA legislation allowing satellite providers to bring in broadcast signals from other markets later this year. The House bill, among other things, adds a provision to prohibit unaffiliated TV stations in one market from jointly negotiating retransmission fees with pay-TV providers.
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.
American Community Television, an advocate for PEG access channels, is the latest member of the coalition created in response to efforts by cable and satellite operators that want to restrict broadcasters’ retransmission consent efforts.
Under the compromise provision included in the satellite bill today, broadcasters with JSAs who apply for a waiver from the FCC will, assuming the measure is eventually signed into law, be able to keep their sharing agreements intact for 18 months after the agency ultimately rejects a waiver, or Dec. 31, 2016, whichever is later.
As part of a House telecom committee proposal for STELA legislation, broadcasters with JSAs who applied for a waiver from the FCC would be able to keep the sharing arrangements intact for 18 months after the agency ultimately rejected a waiver request, or Dec. 31, 2016, whichever is later. The compromise JSA language is expected to be included in the STELA reauthorization bill that is scheduled for a House Energy and Commerce Committee vote tomorrow.
Grace Koh, a House Energy and Commerce Committee staffer,says: “We have made it very clear in the House side that STELA [the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act] is not the right place to address retransmission consent reform. This is not something we want to wade into lightly.”
With a few tweaks, the House communications and technology subcommittee advanced a bill that reauthorizes the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act for five years. The bill now goes to the full House commerce committee. Reauthorization of the bill is vitally important to DirecTV, which still relies on the law to be able to deliver out of market network affiliated TV stations to 1.5 million of its subscribers.
In a letter to the Senate Commerce Committee, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations says it supports the NAB’s position on the reauthorization of STELA. The NASBA urged the committee to “resist efforts from pay-TV entities looking to upset the free market negotiations that help provide the important programming our stations offer.”
At issue at a hearing today was a GOP-backed discussion draft of legislation to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, or STELA. One of the provisions included by subcommittee Republicans could impede the ability of the FCC to follow through for years on its plan to block and undo JSAs.
Republican lawmakers reportedly agreed to delete a provision in the draft satellite bill that would have freed cable TV operators from their current legal obligation to carry retransmission consent stations on the basic tier.
Among the key provisions widely rumored to be under serious consideration for inclusion in a draft satellite TV bill that could be introduced in the House of Representatives as soon as today, is one that would free cable TV operators of their current legal obligation to carry retrans stations on the basic cable tiers that all cable TV subscribers are required to buy, sources say.
Cable charges broadcasters with flip-flopping over retrans, while broadcasters point the finger at operators, especially Time Warner, Dish Network and DirecTV.
Among testimony set to be delivered on Tuesday at a House hearing on retransmission consent is a proposal to allow cable and satellite providers to offer distant network signals during negotiations to avoid blackouts. And a new bill introduced Monday by Rep. Anna Eshoo would give the FCC authority to “grant interim carriage of a television broadcast station during a retransmission consent negotiation.”
The major impact of the FCC’s flurry of orders Tuesday on implementation of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act is how they affect the ability of satellite operators to import a “significantly viewed” duplicating network signal into portions of a local market, thereby undercutting the local network affiliate’s ratings, ad revenue and retransmission negotiations.