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NAB Won't Oppose House Version of STELA

The National Association of Broadcasters does not oppose the House version of the bill reauthorizing the satellite compulsory license (formerly STELA, now STELAR), which is expected to come to the House floor for a vote this week, but in Washington parlance, that is a concurrence rather than a yes vote.

NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said the association's position was unchanged from when the bill was passed out of the Energy & Commerce Committee. At that time, NAB said it had concerns—still does—but that there was "much to be applauded." That was in part for what was not in the final bill.

The bill would prohibit coordinated retrans among non-commonly owned TV stations in a market, which cable operators had pushed for, but does not include a provision removing the must-buy provision for retrans stations, which cable ops had also pushed for, and gotten, in an initial draft.

So, while broadcasters would have preferred, and are still working toward, a "clean" bill, they won't be making a federal case out of the retrans reform if it survives.

"We still have concerns but we are not opposing the House bill. We’re hopeful that tweaks can be made that would allow NAB to offer our full support and endorsement," Wharton said.

A 'clean' Senate version has already passed out of the Judiciary Committee, but the Senate Commerce Committee won't be acting until after the August break, according to chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.).

Ultimately House and Senate versions must be reconciled and a final bill voted before the end of the year or the license expires, as does the FCC’s authority to mandate fair retrans negotiations.