With provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) set to sunset at the end of this year, the Congress this week introduced a new version of a bill to extend that law for another five years and then fast-tracked its approval. Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR) declared, “If we do not act to extend these provisions by the end of this Congress, 1.5 million subscribers to satellite television, including many in Oregon, will not have access to broadcast network programming come New Year’s Day.”
The bill (H.R.5728), introduced by the bipartisan leadership of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, is more than just a simple re-authorization. It includes a number of provisions relevant to broader communications law, including changes to rules governing retransmission consent negotiations between broadcasters and pay-TV companies. Thankfully, the final legislation passed without alterations to rules establishing the responsibility of pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their base platforms. NRB has been vocal in its concern that Congress not abandon the decades-old commitment to “Must Carry” rules for local television, particularly religious television. Indeed, NRB President & CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson has declared, “Scuttling the local channel carriage responsibilities of cable and other pay-TV platforms would be a significant detriment to a number of Christian TV stations and the viewers who rely on them for spiritual guidance.”
This STELA reauthorization bill was approved by voice vote in the U.S. House of Representatives and by unanimous consent in the Senate. It now goes to the President to be signed into law.
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: November 21, 2014