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Media Riders in Mix as House Prepares Continuing Resolution Vote

The House will vote Friday on a five-day continuing resolution (CR), which will extend the wrangling over potential riders on the omnibus spending bill that include on media ownership and network neutrality.

The Senate approved the stop-gap measure by voice vote Thursday (Dec. 10). The White House has said ideological riders, like the one defunding or limiting the Open Internet rules, are unacceptable and could lead to a government shutdown.

The government runs out of money—Dec. 11—but no agreement on that omnibus bill has yet been struck, so the CR is needed to avoid a government shutdown.

The media riders still in play include one that would grandfather joint sales agreements that would otherwise be treated as attributable ownership interests in a March 2014 FCC decision, block funding of new network neutrality rule implementation until legal challenges were resolved and not allow those new net neutrality rules to result in rate regulation.

Also on the docket in the House is a vote on a bipartisan trade bill, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (H.R. 644), that includes a permanent moratorium on taxing Internet access service.

The House and Senate passed different versions of the trade bill, and have resolved those differences, in the process adding a provision making the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) permanent, rather than having to be periodically renewed.

The Senate is also expected to approve the conferenced bill early next week. (ITFA was to have sunset Dec. 11, but was extended as part of the previous CR that is getting a five-day renewal Friday).

Michael Needham, CEO of Heritage Action, urged final passage.

“On very rare occasions genuine conservative policy victories emerge from a conference committee. A permanent ban on taxing Internet access is one such victory," he said. "The permanent ban also deprives proponents of an Internet sales tax from using it as leverage to achieve their unpopular and destructive policy. That is a double win for taxpayers. Heritage Action reserves the right to key vote against any effort to strip this important provision from the bill.”

That "destructive policy" reference is to those who were trying to link the permanent moratorium with the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill that would apply a sales tax to online retailers.

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.