House Passes Bill Making Retrans Good Faith Bargaining Mandate Permanent

The House has passed a compromise bill, HR 5035, the Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA), that would make permanent the mandate that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate in good faith. That mandate sunsets at the end of the year unless renewed. But the bill does not renew the compulsory license, which also sunsets at the end of the year if not renewed.

That license allows satellite operators to import distant TV network affiliate stations to markets where they are not available and to truckers and RV'ers and tailgaters.

Related: House Strikes STELAR Bill Compromise

The TVPA passed on suspension, which is reserved for noncontroversial items. And while its co-sponsors, House Communications Subcommittee chairman Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and House Energy & Commerce Committee ranking member Greg Walden (R-Ore.) each got 20 minutes to speak on the bill, they only used a minute or so each before urging their colleagues to pass it, which they did on a voice vote, and the Senate to follow suit.

Related: House Schedules Vote on STELAR-Related Compromise Bill

In addition to making the STELAR law 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, requires fee disclosures by MVPDs--which cable ops weren't calling for, and prohibits MVPDs from charging consumers for some equipment.

Doyle in his brief statement suggested the bill would "help insure" that millions of Americans, including almost a million satellite customers, won't lose access to television content and said it was imperative that it pass and head to the President's desk by the end of the year.

The "millions of Americans' comment was likely a reference to the blackouts that some have said would increase if there were no "good faith" mandate. But as to the satellite customers, a House Communications Subcommittee spokesperson confirmed that the bill does not reauthorize the compulsory distant-signal license at the heart of STELAR and which, if it sunset, could cost those close to a million subs their distant TV station signals absent the sort of glide path Senate Judiciary chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has suggested in calling for a sunset of the license.

Energy & Commerce (and Commerce) and Judiciary divvy up oversight of the issue in both the Senate and House and the compulsory license is a copyright-related matter currently before Judiciary committees in both Houses, which will also need to act or the provision license expires. 

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.