Sen. Judiciary STELA Draft Expected This Week

Communications lobby sources are looking for a first pass at a Senate Judiciary Committee Satellite Television Extension and Reauthorization Act (STELA) to be introduced this week, perhaps as early as tomorrow.

The STELA bill renews the compulsory license that allows satellite operators to deliver distant network TV station signals to viewers who can't get local versions over the air and renews the FCC's authority to enforce good faith retransmission consent negotiations.

The Senate Judiciary committee bill, from Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), is said to be essentially a first pass draft of only a couple of pages. It renews the license for another five years, makes some technical changes, but does not get into any of the issues that could eventually be added, and certainly will be debated, as the Judiciary and Senate Commerce Committee work on their version and ultimately reconcile it with a House version, a process that must be completed by the end of December or the license sunsets.

Cable operators have been pushing for retrans reforms as part of STELA, and were successful in getting included on the version that passed the House Energy & Commerce Committee last month a provision disallowing coordinated retrans.

(, as well as one eliminating the set-top integration ban and preventing joint retransmission consent negotiations by TV stations and the prohibition on cable operators dropping TV station programming during sweeps periods.

Broadcaster would like to see a "clean" bill, so the Judiciary version is a good start. But if past is prologue, a two-page bill is highly unlikely.

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.