Commerce Committee Passes STAVRA

The Senate panel OKs the satellite-broadcaster retrans legislation without the Local Choice provision sought by cable.  

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee passed the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA). The legislation did not include the “Local Choice” broadcast-only a la carte proposal that broadcasters objected to and that the cable industry supported.

Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman and ranking member of committee, issued the following statement following passage: “We are pleased that the committee today advanced the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) that would ensure 1.5 million satellite pay TV subscribers maintain access to distant broadcast network television signals and would make several pro-consumer reforms to the nation’s video policy.

“It is always hard to find unanimity in the legislative process, but we think our bill is a strong, bipartisan consensus measure that we hope garners widespread support as it moves to the floor. Those 1.5 million Americans are dependent on Congress acting on the STELA reauthorization before the end of the year – something we hope our colleagues remember as STAVRA advances through the legislative process.

“And although Local Choice proved to be something that was too big and bold to be included in STAVRA due to the limited time we have, we are pleased that we were able to start a conversation about the proposal, a conversation which we intend to continue.”

Others commenting on the bill included:

American Cable Association President-CEO Matthew M. Polka: “ACA salutes Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune for their hard work over many months leading up to today’s important Senate Commerce Committee vote to approve the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act, a bill that makes big strides in reforming several outdated video competition laws, especially retransmission consent. Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune deserve high praise for drafting a bill that represents a clear break with the status quo, and their cooperative approach affirms our faith in the notion that bipartisanship is an essential ingredient to producing good public policy.”

BRAND CONNECTIONS spokesman Robert C. Kenny: “We are encouraged by the Senate Commerce Committee’s bipartisan effort to eliminate provisions that would have hurt the public interest and cost consumers considerably more on their monthly pay TV bill. We now need a greater public dialogue about the future of the video marketplace, and how to best protect consumers from greedy pay TV providers. In the days ahead, our 28-member broad-based coalition will continue to engage lawmakers, policymakers, consumer advocacy groups and industry leaders to preserve the basic tier and protect consumers’ interests.”

Kenny also praised Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) for introducing an amendment that would require the FCC to implement a new standard to preserve competition in the set-top box marketplace. “Consumers continue to be saddled with excessive rental fees and hidden charges that pay TV companies use to nickel-and-dime subscribers to pad their bottom lines,” said Kenny. “Sen. Markey’s amendment is a step towards curbing the estimated $7 billion consumers are forced to pay every year in gratuitous set-top box leasing fees.”

DirecTV and Dish Network: “We thank Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Thune and the rest of the Senate Commerce Committee for passing bipartisan legislation that makes important reforms to the outdated laws governing today’s video market, while ensuring continuity of service to more than 1.5 million distant signal subscribers who would, otherwise, lose service at the end of this year. We look forward to working with congressional leadership to see this reauthorization swiftly passed into law, and also look forward to continuing the important discussion regarding retransmission consent reform, and in particular protecting consumers from local channel blackouts.”

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Don Thompson says:

September 17, 2014 at 9:20 pm

ACA Commends Senate Commerce Committee Passage of STAVRA

PITTSBURGH, September 17, 2014 – American Cable Association President and CEO Matthew M. Polka issued the following statement regarding Senate Commerce Committee passage of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA):

“ACA salutes Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune for their hard work over many months leading up to today’s important Senate Commerce Committee vote to approve the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act, a bill that makes big strides in reforming several outdated video competition laws, especially retransmission consent.

“Sen. Rockefeller and Sen. Thune deserve high praise for drafting a bill that represents a clear break with the status quo, and their cooperative approach affirms our faith in the notion that bipartisanship is an essential ingredient to producing good public policy. ACA thanks all members of the Senate Commerce Committee for their work on and their passage of STAVRA.

“ACA’s support for STAVRA is firm and unequivocal, and the independent cable community looks forward to securing final Senate and House approval of this badly needed pro-consumer, pro-competition measure before the end of the year.”

Please follow me on Twitter @TedatACA

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 17, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Guess Local Choice was not that important to ACA after all……Please follow me on Twitter @NotTedatACA

    kristin serman says:

    September 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    It’s not going away I expect it to come back soon because you have a lot of folks in Congress that are saying that this bill actually didn’t go far enough.
    Not to mention your only losing Rockefeller the rest of the Local Choice, and Free Market folks will still be there in 2015. If Republicans win Congress expect Local Choice and other reforms to get passed into law.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 18, 2014 at 2:19 am

    I’ve heard that for decades on so many items in Congress that never see the light of day….

kristin serman says:

September 18, 2014 at 9:24 am

Actually Thune stated the other day he plans to keep this issue alive and push it through the next congressional session. As I stated these folks that support this aren’t leaving only Rockefeller is and that should concern the supporters for the Broadcasters. Because unbundled packages are popular with the consumers with the amount of blackouts increasing there will be public pressure from folks including interests groups and cable/satellite providers to push this through.
So if this keeps coming up the Broadcasters will have to eventually compromise or they will lose big time since the demand is there not only for unbundled packages as I stated, but Local or Regional Choice of broadcast stations including stations out of market in larger markets, and support for National Network feeds without local news just the network shows, network sports (NFL, MLB, NBA etc.) , nightly news , and filler programming.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 18, 2014 at 11:59 am

    It will only happen if everything goes a la carte. In the end, our elected officials will realize what it does to their own campaign budget and not vote for local choice.

    kristin serman says:

    September 18, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    I think Local Choice is the start of a complete overhaul of what things would look like in the long run.
    Folks should have the choice to dump stations they don’t want nor watch. As I stated to you and others I support having a totally unbundled system which you can pick and drop the channels you want and don’t want. Also be allowed to get network stations not only from the state you live in but from other areas as well. We also should be able to get National Network feeds as I have stated to you and others where we just get the network shows, network sports, nightly news and filler programming.
    We shouldn’t have to have religion channels, music channels, news channels, shopping channels, certain sports channels like Tennis, Golf , Horse Racing that we don’t want.
    But yet we are required to have these in this outdated setup , also are not allowed to have network stations that come from other areas, and National Network Feeds.
    It is Not the American way heck Canada has better regulations than we do and that is sad we need 21st Century laws. Laws that benefit the consumer instead of the broadcasters and providers who have made out very well in this foolish system.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 19, 2014 at 4:00 am

    The “American way” as you call it is the owner of makes the rules. With that in mind, no matter what, do not expect to ever be able to get out of market NETWORK feeds without NETWORK and SYNDICATED PROGRAMMING blacked out. In fact, in reality, you could get that now, if offered. Just as a McDonalds Franchised to Boise cannot move to Los Angeles, nor can SouthEast Toyota open up Dealerships in the NorthEast. The owner (Network and Syndicators) only license their owned Programming for specific areas – and stations CANNOT sell what they are not licensed.

    Erika Beckles says:

    September 19, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Sorry I have to disagree with you Insider. Exclusivity Rules are so OUTDATED and very 20th century-ish and needs to be eliminated for good. I live in a market where it covers 3 states (North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia) but people in the 4 counties in Georgia part of the Greenville, SC market are DENIED to watch In-State programming like local news, weather, and sports. Northeast Georgians want to watch for example Atlanta Falcons, NOT the Carolina Panthers and they’re DENIED to watch PBS from their own state of Georgia from GPB, instead have to rely on South Carolina ETV or UNC-TV for non-commercial fare from DOWNTON ABBEY to SESAME STREET. I think Insider is on the NAB’s side…I’m not on the Greedy NAB’s side, I fight what I believe in like a True American did. Remember when Susan B. Anthony fought for Voting Rights for Women? Remember when Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for Civil Rights? They were True Patriots but unfortunately they’re deceased. Please read S. 2799 on Library of Congress or GovTrack website and it mentions In-State programming. Yes, Localism is important, it’s important to the state and community you live, work, and breathe in. On Canadian laws, they have CanCon aka Canadian Content and they block some American Programming on US stations too on cable and satellite in Canada. The NAB cares about is Greed and they’re against importing out-of-market feeds including in-state programming which the viewer in the out-of-state market they’re FORCED to be in are DENIED. Pathetic! What a Pathetic reply Insider.

    kristin serman says:

    September 19, 2014 at 10:06 am

    You can do this by eliminating DMA areas, eliminating exclusivity and instead allow folks to get the content through a free market system or by going to a regional system with 4 regions East, Midwest, Rocky Moutain/Southwest, West Coast/Pacific. The fact that we can’t have choice and the right to choose what stations and content we want is absurd and really outrageous.
    The fact we are bound in a socialist system near communist system that is outdated is truly not American.
    Folks should have the right with the tv to watch and get the content they want their is huge demand for it.
    But thanks to a system that is rigged for broadcasters and cable networks we can’t get it.
    They want to continue to fight against it instead of increasing their viewer base.
    Why is it that broadcasters, the NAB, (biased against consumers) and other groups against being for the consumers.
    Why are they against a choice system or free market system which they could benefit in the long run.
    Why are they against folks having distant channels or national network feeds.
    I tell you why because they benefit from the current set up that gives the consumer no real say in the way they want their tv.

    Erika Beckles says:

    September 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

    I have to agree with tvgoon’s reply. The NAB are corrupted and being commies. With Retransmission Consent reforms, I bet Gordon Smith and Dennis Wharton of the NAB are throwing a temper tantrum because they can’t get their way. Sorry NAB, your reign is numbered, and stop being greedy like a arch nemesis. I agree about the Nielsen’s DMA system, it’s TOTALLY outdated and very 1950s I’m glad they put a provision to let them have In-State programming of news, weather, and sports. So far before the STAVRA bill passed by voice vote, there were 127 blackouts by broadcasters last year compare to 91 in 2012, 51 in 2011, and only 12 in 2010…Soon the madness will stop for good and soon the broadcasters will stop pointing fingers at Pay-Television providers, and Pay-Television providers pointing fingers at broadcasters aka the Blame Game. The NAB hates FREEDOM OF CHOICE since True Americans love Free Choice and they know it. Darn it, this is supposed to be the United States of America, you know in Great Britain (don’t get me started about Scotland not getting independence) you’ll have to pay a license to own a television set every year, unfortunately it’s the law in Britain but not here. I hate corruption and greed, and I’m with you on that tvgoon. I know that Local Choice wasn’t included in the latest STAVRA markup, but reforming the controversial Retransmission Consent regime is better…We do need laws in 21st century that reflects today’s standards, not the glorious past. That’s my reply.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 19, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    Actually, your reply is pathetic. First, the DMA is decided by what is watched INSIDE THE MARKET. If any of those 4 Counties actually had 51% of their viewing from Atlanta, the County would be moved to the Atlanta DMA. So it is viewer driven IN THE COUNTY. Second, there is NO REGULATION CURRENTLY ON THE BOOKS that denies the MVPD in those Counties to supply Atlanta Stations, for the Local News, sports, Weather, etc that comes out of Atlanta (although the Atlanta Stations will not cover those Counties as it is not in their DMA). The only thing is the Programming they do not own, would be blacked out in those Counties. As thus, Network Programming, Dr. Oz, Wheel of Fortune etc would be blacked out – but be seen on the actual local DMA station. Actually your reply is pathetic as you can get what you want with current laws – however, You still cannot deny the “franchise owners” their rights. And if you deny the owners their right, please leave your address so people can come move into your house!

    Erika Beckles says:

    September 19, 2014 at 6:50 pm

    Insider, you need to GET A LIFE! Screw the Exclusivity Rules too!

    Erika Beckles says:

    September 19, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Also Insider, the Greenville, SC stations don’t cover Georgia news hardly. Do your research!

    kristin serman says:

    September 19, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    No your not being correct the DMA rules are warped you can live in one market but not get those channels as this poster says. He lives in Georgia but gets his from another state (South Carolina) , and in the area I live in (Southern Central Maine – near Portland area) but yet get , or in my case nearly 2 hours away from another market located in Eastern Maine (Bangor market).
    Which impacts us very little because it’s not in the area we live in. If we do like I stated unbundle the packages let folks chose the cable channels they want. Then unbundle the locals and go to a Regional system with 4 regions (East, Midwest, Rocky Mountain/South West , West/Pacific) and allow choice so folks can pick and choose where they want their network channels and allow them to get it from as many areas they want it from in that region. I don’t see where the outrage is wouldn’t the broadcasters love to expand their reach and viewer base I think so the more revenue they get the better.
    Also as I told you there is huge support from folks that want just a National Feed of the network channels they just want network shows, network sports, nightly national news and filler programs.
    They don’t want local networks there is that crowd out there. Why can’t we bring things into reality with a 21st Century system where everyone is happy because the current system doesn’t work and it is rigged for the Broadcasters, their interests NAB, (not citizen friendly) , and Wall Street who is making money off of this which is outrageous. The customer should be the one dictating what they want instead of seeing them cutting the cable and satellite lines and the tv plug and going in a different direction where everyone loses.

    kristin serman says:

    September 19, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    They don’t want changes because they are the only ones that are winning in this outdated model that benefits nobody but them. I can’t understand why they don’t want a total free market system where they increase their viewer base and also get folks outside their viewing market to see their programming.
    Who in their right mind whether the stations are in Boston, D.C. New York, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix or LA pass up viewers from Minnesota, Maine, Kentucky , Georgia. The fact that they can increase their viewing base and revenue should be a no brainer to me. But for some lame warped reason they want to keep this 19th Century model going.

    Erika Beckles says:

    September 19, 2014 at 9:57 pm

    I live in South Carolina actually. But I felt sorry for those in Georgia portion of the market. You’re right tvgoon, The NAB are socialists.

    kristin serman says:

    September 20, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    My issues with it is I have DISH and live in Southern Central Maine (Portland Market) not far from Portland itself but yet get the Eastern Maine Stations (Bangor area). This DMA thing is nonsense it is not thought out and it punishes everyone. They need to open up the rules unbundle everything , then allow a total free market or choice system to let folks pick the channels they want . Also going to a 4 region system for network stations. By allowing them to get their networks stations from anywhere in the region they want besides the locals in their state. These Anti-Bundle and Choice folks think we love the current system they make every excuse out there. We should be allowed to not only get our network stations in our state, but I feel we should have the right to get Network Stations from Boston, D.C., New York, Philly, Atlanta, Charlotte, Dover , Delaware, Pittsburgh, Norfolk. Yet they think the plan is outrageous and no one wants it . NO THEY DON’T WANT THE CURRENT SYSTEM IT STINKS!!!!. We should also be allowed to have a National Network feed of the Broadcast channels as well don’t matter where it comes from.
    But if we went to an unbundled system I would do away with shopping channels, religion channels, most Discovery channels, Tennis, Horse Racing, Golf, Sportsman etc..
    But yet they think that it won’t work says who if the current system works why is everyone cutting the plug and cable/satellite lines. Someone explain that to me.

    Wagner Pereira says:

    September 21, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Always comical to see the clueless people. 1) Atlanta stations will not cover “local news” in the few counties in North Georgia not in their metro. They will cover “local news” from the Atlanta/Gainesville Metro primarily. 2) Over 50% of the people in your County watch the DMA you are classified in. Again, that is at the COUNTY level – not the DMA level 3) Calling a Socialist system where no one owns their property a “free market system” sounds like Stalin (google him). 4) A relative of mine goes to Clemson. Give me your address so i can stay in your property when I come visit him as you believe that is the free market system. 5) As noted previously, Cable Systems/DBS Systems can negotiate with out of market stations to rebroadcast any material THEY LOCALLY PRODUCE (such as Newscast). Network/Syndicated programming the stations use they are licensed to retransmit in their DMA cannot be retransmitted again outside their DMA. This is done in markets already from Palm Springs TWC carrying LA Stations to DirecTV/FiOS carrying Sarasota WWSB in Tampa-St. Petersburg, even though Sarasota is IN the Tampa DMA – WFTS in Tampa has the rights to ABC in the Tampa-St. Petersburg portion of the market.