House E&C Strikes STELAR Renewal Deal

House Energy & Commerce Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) have reached agreement on a STELAR reauthorization bill scheduled to be marked up later today in the full committee, but a bill that does not reauthorize the compulsory distant signal license, a major piece of the legislation that Doyle says Judiciary will handle.

If it makes it to the President's desk--and Judiciary does indeed add the license renewal part--the bill, H.R. 5035, the Television Viewer Protection Act, would be a win for cable operators, though short of the retrans reforms--no blackouts, arbitration--that are on their wish list.

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The latest version of Doyle's bill, which will be introduced as a substitute at the markup by both Doyle and Walden, according to a copy of the managers amendment, makes permanent the STELAR mandate that retrans negotiations be conducted in good faith, which is a new addition. The bill allows MVPD buying groups the same good faith guarantee in negotiations, as ACA Connects had lobbied for, and still requires fee disclosures by MVPDs and prohibits MVPDs from charging consumers for some equipment.

“This is a complex issue that directly affects millions of Americans. I’m very pleased that we were able to negotiate a bipartisan compromise on legislation to permanently authorize the law governing good faith negotiations between broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors over the carriage of broadcast television programming."

As to the absence of a compulsory license renewal to the bill, Doyle said: “The deal also enables the Judiciary Committee to extend the distant signal license, which allows satellite TV providers to carry broadcast television content to nearly a million consumers. I understand that the House Judiciary Committee is working toward an agreement on this legislation."

Judiciary is planning to mark up its version of the bill Wednesday (Nov. 20). 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.