NAB To Senate Commerce: Keep STELA Clean

The National Association of Broadcasters has presented the Senate Commerce Committee with 13 pages worth of suggestions on what it should, or more to the point shouldn't, do in reauthorizing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

The suggestions pretty much boil down to: Don't use it to remake communications policy in general and retrans policy in particular.

The Committee sought input as it prepares a hearing on STELA and what should be in the legislation, which must pass by Dec. 31 or satellite operator's blanket license to deliver distant network-affiliated TV station signals will sunset.

The NAB is actually OK with that sunset--it calls the license a market-distorting mechanism that has outlived its usefulness--but spent most of its 13 pages on arguing for what should not be in a "clean" renewal. Satellite operators have asked the committee to make multiple retrans changes as part of STELA, but NAB says such efforts would only "prolong, complicate and threaten" the rauthorization process.

The NAB advised not to modify designated market areas (DMAs) or change the definition of unserved households. "Nothing in this bill should increase the number of viewers who are unable to watch a local broadcast signal," said NAB, meaning that no definitional change should boost that number.

STELA is reauthorized every five years. The last time around, the bill was a magnate for various issues that helped push reauthorization months past the deadline, leading to Senate leaders having to ask copyright holders to treat satellite operators as though the license had been renewed and Congress would make it retroactive when the bill finally passed.

NAB argued for maintaining rate regulation on cable absent an FCC finding of effective competition, using its answer to take a shot at prices.

"Given that consumers continue to experience year-over-year increases in the rates they pay MVPD's," said the NAB, "increases that routinely outpace inflation, NAB believes it would be wise to retain any tools that have the potential to constrain cable prices at this time."

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.