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Where we stand on STELA, JSA/SSAs

After a flurry of activity in both houses of Congress, efforts to use the year-end STELA reauthorization deadline to harm local TV broadcasters have reached a pause as lawmakers plot their next moves.

The Pay-TV industry continues to press lawmakers to gut the retransmission consent process, strip broadcasters from Pay-TV’s lifeline basic tier and dismantle JSAs and SSAs that are allowing many smaller TV markets to sustain a full offering of broadcast stations.

Hearings in the Senate’s separate Commerce and Judiciary committees last month were generally less contentious than in the House Commerce subcommittee. 

The Senate committees will likely begin drafting legislation this summer.  The House subcommittee has reached a preliminary framework that:

  1. Extends STELA for another 5-year term;
  2. Allows MVPDs 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 FCC, meanwhile, hastily adopted new rules regarding JSAs and SSAs that are referenced in the House subcommittee’s working draft.

The commission is now targeting the syndication exclusivity and network non-duplication rules in another step that again appears intended to weaken local TV stations in an effort to force many of them into the “incentive” spectrum auction slated for 2015.

David Oxenford with Wilkinson Barker and Knauer, a TAB Associate Member, offers his insight into the latest foray by the FCC.

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

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