House Republicans Still Seek Relatively Clean STELA

The republican leadership on the House Communications Subcommittee says it still wants a relatively clean reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

In a memo to staffers in advance of the March 12 STELA hearing, they indicated that given that it is must-pass legislation, they want to confine the bill to the several "narrowly-tailored" video distribution changes in last week's draft.

They pointed to the planned Communications Act rewrite over the next couple of years as "the better venue for a comprehensive review of communications laws" and what they concede are more, "necessary" changes.

The bill would reauthorize the satellite distant signal compulsory license for another five years—there had been some suggestion early on it could be shortened to a three-year reauthorization; eliminate the prohibition on dropping sweeps programming during retrans impasses; prohibit coordinated retransmission consent negotiations between two independently owned stations "whether they are under a JSA or not"—it does not address shared services arrangements or news sharing; and eliminate the FCC's requirement of CableCards in leased set-tops—without repealing the mandate to foster set-top competition.

Other committees—the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees—will have something to say about how clear the bill winds up being.

The House Communications Subcommittee and stakeholders will have their first chance to weigh in on the bill at the March 12 STELA hearing.

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.