FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel suggested Tuesday that
a telecom rewrite could potentially come in the form of reauthorization of the
Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act.
In an interview with National Association of Broadcasters president
Gordon Smith at NAB's State Leadership conference Tuesday, Smith asked whether
STELA could become the vehicle for a telecom rewrite. Her answer was that
updates to telecom law often come from exogenous forces or deadlines, and that
STELA was a good example of that.
STELA, which authorizes the compulsory license allowing
satellite operators to import distant network TV station signals, has to be
reauthorized by the end of 2014 or it will sunset.
She pointed out that STELA had been the vehicle for
local-into-local service, including Dish and DirecTV's carriage of virtually
all local TV stations. But she also pointed out that, ultimately, the FCC's
role would be to "faithfully execute" whatever law Congress comes up
Rosenworcel shared the dais with commissioner Ajit Pai, and
both shared their view of successful incentive spectrum auctions and the
communications world beyond.
The commissioners were in agreement that the FCC had not yet
decided on how to interpret the statutory mandate that the FCC make all
reasonable efforts to protect broadcasters' coverage areas and signals. They
urged broadcasters to continue to be part of that conversation. Reply comments
in the FCC's auction framework rulemaking are due next week, so the
commissioners are getting and will be getting plenty of input.
Pai said it was no single vision, but that a successful
auction would require the FCC to be faithful to the statute, keep the process
simple and provide a reasonable deadline, though he said the emphasis must be
on getting it done right rather than right away.
Rosenworcel said she thought a successful auction, which
they all hoped for, would produce a stronger broadcasting business since those
left would be committed to serving their local communities, provide needed
spectrum for broadband and fund an emergency first responder network. That last
is near and dear to her heart since she worked with her former boss, Senate
Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) on the incentive auction
legislation that creates and funds that network.
Asked what the main impediment was to completing the FCC's
ongoing, and likely to be ongoing for a few more months, media ownership rule
review, Pai said there was no one issue, but in fact it was that the issues
were interrelated. Smith, a former Senator, agreed, adding: "No
amendment is an island."
Rosenworcel said that the issue of minority and female
ownership remains a key one, and that Congress could help by passing a new tax
certificate law. Both Pai and Rosenworcel agreed that they key to more minority
ownership was access to Capitol, which that tax certificate would address. Pai
also put in a plug for allowing more foreign investment in TV and radio
Smith gave the FCC props for not stepping into retransmission
consent, a line that drew some obvious applause.
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