The WasteWatcher: The Staff Blog of Citizens Against Government Waste

Satellite TV Bill Moves Forward in the Senate

The WasteWatcher is the staff blog of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) and the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW). For questions, contact blog@cagw.org.


On September 17, 2014, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation approved S. 2799, the Satellite Television and View Rights Act (STAVRA), which would extend for five years the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act. The current authorization expires on December 31, 2014. While one would think this would only be of interest to users of satellite TV, provisions in the bill extend beyond the scope of just reauthorizing satellite access to television signals.

As approved by the committee, the bill would extend the ability of satellite companies to import distant signals for another five years. In addition, the bill would prohibit joint retransmission negotiations; prohibit local stations from using retransmission agreements in order to prevent the ability of multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) from carrying certain out-of-market signals; and, sunsets the set-top box integration ban. The bill also requires the Federal Communication Commission to reexamine its good faith negotiation rules, and instructs the FCC to collect and report retransmission consent data as part of its cable pricing report.

Retransmission consent issues have been on the uptick since 2010, with consumers often feeling the consequences of tense negotiations in the form of programming blackouts. In the summer of 2013, the retransmission battle between CBS and Time Warner Cable became ugly, with CBS not only blacking out the television signals, but also disrupting online broadcaster content for Time Warner subscribers. It became clear that a solution to retransmission consent agreements between broadcasters and MVPDs needed to be found.

Reauthorizing the Satellite Television Access Act for the next five years will provide certainty in the Satellite TV marketplace.  In addition, the modest reforms in the retransmission process, as well as the sunset of the set-top box integration ban provide a way forward for the next Congress as it prepares to modernize the Communications Act.

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