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Satellite bill morphs into Pay-TV Christmas tree

Update (9/10/14 9 am): The "Local Choice" broadcast-only a la carte provision (#7 below) was removed from the bill late in the day on Sept. 9.

With every conceivable Pay-TV goodie dangling on its branches, the latest iteration of the STELA reauthorization has become nothing more than a fulfillment of the Pay-TV industry’s every Christmas wish, with the end result being the decimation of the retransmission consent process and, eventually, broadcast TV localism.

As expected, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller, IV, D-West Virginia, has rolled out a proposed five-year renewal of the satellite TV bill that includes not only an ill-conceived broadcast-only a la carte plan, but additional harmful provisions that have been rejected by other key Congressional committees.

The bill, which is slated for consideration on Sept. 17, reportedly includes the following provisions:

  1. Five year extension of STELA;
  2. Under section 614(h) of the Communications Act, a must-carry station may apply to the FCC for a cable system (but not satellite) to carry that station on an out of market system under certain circumstances.  Bill extends to satellite the ability to request such a change to offer an out of market station on a case-by-case basis.;
  3. Ban joint retransmission consent agreements among non-commonly owned stations;
  4. Prohibit provisions in retransmission consent agreements that would ‎prevent the carriage of an authorized significantly-viewed station (or other added signal) in the market;
  5. Give the FCC specific authority to seek information from both parties during a retransmission consent negotiation impasse to determine whether a per se violation of the good faith rules was committed;
  6. Direct the FCC to conduct a rulemaking to determine whether certain actions, like blocking of online content, are a per se violation of the good faith requirement;
  7. Local Choice - creating an a la carte system only for broadcast stations;
  8. Require the FCC to include in its annual cable rate report specific data on the amount cable pays in retransmission consent fees in their local market;
  9. Cable card/integration ban repeal; and 
  10. Directs the FCC to streamline the process for small cable (less than 50,000 subs) to file for "effective competition" which removes those cable systems from basic tier rate regulation.

Texas television broadcasters are encouraged to weigh in with Sen. Ted Cruz, who serves on the Commerce Committee, to explain the likely impact of these provisions on viewers and broadcasters’ ability to serve their local communities with the news, emergency information and entertainment programming that viewers value so highly.

Check your email, including spam filters, for details on reaching out to Senator Cruz.

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

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