STELA Takes Center Stage at Hearing | Citizens Against Government Waste

STELA Takes Center Stage at Hearing

The WasteWatcher

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology is slated to hold a hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA) on March 12, 2014.  This hearing opens a window of opportunity to discuss outdated regulatory schemes, such as retransmission consent agreements, and must-carry provisions of the Cable Act of 1992.

STELA reauthorized the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004, which governed the satellite carrier distant broadcast signal license and the retransmission of broadcast television content by satellite companies.  STELA also modernized and simplified licensing processes, while encouraging satellite providers to provide more local content to viewers.  In addition, the law revised and updated adjustments to the royalty percentages paid by cable companies to content providers under copyright laws.  The current STELA authorization expires on December 31, 2014.

In 1992, Congress enacted The Cable Act of 1992 to address cable television rate increases following deregulation and the concern of broadcasters that cable operators would not carry their local stations under the existing guidelines.  Much has changed in video viewing since the 1992 Act, and the law failed to take into consideration how quickly the television and video industry has grown and expanded, providing a competitive marketplace that provides consumers multiple choices in how they access video content.  Broadcasters no longer deal with a single cable monopoly; on the contrary, broadcasters choose among multiple providers ranging from cable to satellite to fiber optic networks.

On March 5, 2014, the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) sent a letter to Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee reiterating its support for reform of the rules governing the television marketplace.  CCAGW prefers a level playing field between multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) and broadcasters during negotiations by eliminating the sweeps week ban on an MVPD blocking signals to certain stations when a retransmission dispute occurs and the elimination of a broadcaster’s right to placement on the basic tier.

On March 6, 2014, Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden proposed draft legislation to reauthorize STELA for another five years.  In addition, the proposed legislation would impose limitations on joint retransmission consent negotiations which would permit cable and satellite companies to reach a deal with individual broadcasters for the right to carry their signals.  The proposed bill would also end a federal security equipment requirement for set-top boxes and provide for more equitable negotiations for programming compensation during the period when broadcasters collect ratings information.

Government rules and regulations should drive businesses into the twenty-first century, not hold them back.  The discussions over STELA reauthorization provides the opportunity to review and reform antiquated regulatory schemes, including retransmission consent, and provide a new regulatory structure that reflects the current competitive marketplace.

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