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Pay-TV fails in effort to move local TV from basic to pricier tier

Pay-TV groups’ effort to further line their pockets by moving local broadcast stations from the basic tier to a more expensive  tier was quashed last week after local broadcasters exposed the effect of the proposal to key lawmakers on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The effort was championed by Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, who also is pressing for other far-reaching changes on behalf of his Pay-TV supporters within the context of reauthorizing the Satellite Extension and Localism Act (STELA) for another five years.  The measure must pass by Dec. 31, 2014 or the act will expire.

Texas Congressman Joe Barton, R-Ennis, was one of three lawmakers on the committee who led the push-back against Scalise’s measure.

“Congressman Barton understands the importance of local broadcasters to the wellbeing of Texas communities and his constituents, and we salute him for his leadership in defeating what was essentially a TV tax advanced by Mr. Scalise,” said TAB President Oscar Rodriguez.

A separate provision intended to undercut the ability of some TV stations employing FCC-approved joint sales and shared services agreements to negotiate retransmission consent payments is likely to remain, albeit in a modified form intended to provide some protections for those broadcasters.

The draft legislation is the subject of a public committee hearing scheduled for Wed., March 12.

Advance reports on the draft indicate the legislation:

  1. Extends STELA for another five year term;
  2. Allows Pay-TV companies to elect whether to negotiate retransmission agreements jointly or severally with JSA stations. The FCC rule must be completed 9 months after enactment of the bill.
  3. Prohibits the FCC from modifying attribution rules for JSAs, SSAs or any similar agreements until the FCC issues a single order that:
       (a) Addresses all of the Commission’s media ownership rules that are required under the Quadrennial review provisions, and
       (b) Closes the 2010 Quadrennial review.
  4. Eliminates the sweeps rule;
  5. Cable card language, which removes the obligation on cable companies to insert cable cards into set top boxes;
  6. A Comptroller Report that studies the consumer and programming impacts resulting from the phase-out of compulsory licenses (copyright sections 111, 119 and 122); and
  7. Requires an annual report from each satellite carrier discussing the markets served with local-into-local broadcast signals.

The legislation must still clear hurdles in the House Judiciary Committee, the full House, two Senate committees and the full Senate.

“Already we’ve demonstrated the importance of local broadcasters actively engaging their lawmakers on the effect of this legislation with great success, but we must remain vigilant throughout the process to avert other proposals that could harm our ability to compete in the modern media marketplace and serve our local communities,” Rodriguez said.

Questions?  Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944(512) 322-9944.

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