Clean STELA Bill Introduced by Senate Judiciary Leaders

With provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) set to sunset at the end of this year, leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have opted to put forward a “clean” bill that essentially extends the current law for five years. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA), respectively Chairman and Ranking Member of the Committee, together introduced their STELA bill in hopes of swift passage. 

Senator Leahy stated, “My focus is on the consumers who stand to lose access to broadcast television content in the event that Congress is unable to pass a bill by the end of the year. My bipartisan bill will ensure that those rural viewers are not left in the dark come December 31.” Similarly, Senator Grassley added, “Many customers who rely on satellite service don’t have other options for receiving television service.  Reauthorizing this law is important so that the 1.5 million customers who are at risk of losing their satellite service come January will be able to retain access.”

This STELA approach differs from the path taken to date in the House where the re-authorization has broadened into other communications law battles. Thankfully, alterations to rules establishing the responsibility of pay-TV providers to carry local TV stations on their base platforms have not been accepted into the re-authorization process thus far. NRB has been vocal in its concern that Congress not abandon the decades-old commitment to local television, particularly religious television. Indeed, Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB, 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.”

Under regular order, STELA re-authorization legislation must pass through the Judiciary and Commerce Committees of both House and Senate.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations

Published: June 13, 2014