Broadcasters To Fight STELA Retrans Threat
Broadcast industry lobbyists are scrambling today (March 3) to derail an effort to include provisions in a satellite TV bill that could gut retransmission consent rights of television stations.
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.
Another key provision said to be under consideration, according to broadcast lobbyists, would eliminate a regulation that currently bars cable and satellite TV operators from dropping broadcast signals during retrans disputes that occur during ratings sweeps periods.
Still another provision would allow cable operators to decide whether to negotiate retrans agreements individually or jointly with TV stations that are linked together under joint sales agreements.
Sources say the provisions are under consideration for inclusion in a draft bill being put together by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), chairman of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, in an apparent effort to mollify Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who would prefer to ax retransmission consent and the FCC’s must-carry rules altogether.
The satellite TV bill under consideration would reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), a measure that clears the way for satellite TV services to retransmit signals of distant TV stations into some local markets.
Congressional members are reportedly planning to meet this evening to decide what provisions should be included in the draft STELA reauthorization bill.
Rumors that Walden is considering including the retrans reform provisions in his STELA reauthorization caught some observers by surprise, because the lawmaker publicly announced in December that he opposed including retrans reform provisions in STELA.
The Colorado Broadcasters Association alerted broadcasters to the legislative threat in a tweet late last Friday, Feb 28.
“We understand that the bill may contain the elimination of the basic tier for retransmission consent stations and other harmful provisions,” the CBA tweet said. “Between now and Monday, TV broadcasters need to do everything possible to ask these members of Congress to advocate for a clean STELA bill.”
“If these reports are true, NAB will lobby aggressively against the legislation,” Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters, told TVNewsCheck.
STELA has been a key target for the pay TV industry’s retrans reform advocates because it’s one of the only media-related bills believed to have a reasonable chance of being approved by Congress this year.
A spokesman for Walden declined comment.