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Senate Commerce Will Take Up STELA in September

The Senate Commerce Committee has signaled it won't be taking up the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), until after the August recess.

That came in a joint statement from Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.).

“The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will consider and report legislation during the Senate’s September work period, including the reauthorization of expiring provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010," they said. "We look forward to continuing the productive bipartisan work of the committee and collaborating with our fellow members.”

STELA reauthorization has to pass by the end of the year or the law expires. That would mean the satellite compulsory license would expire, which allows satellite operators to deliver distant affiliated TV station signals to local markets that lack a viewable version. It would also mean the FCC was no longer authorized to enforce good faith negotiations in retrans disputes.

Last week, the House Judiciary Committee approved a "clean" Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act of 2014 (H.R. 5036), or STARA, which will apparently be the new name for STELA, which has gone through many names since it was first passed in 1988.

A STELA reauthorization bill containing retrans reform has passed out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and a "clean" version has been introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee, so there is still work to do in reconciling those, getting the Senate Commerce Committee's input, and getting a bill through both Houses, particularly as legislators prepare for upcoming elections.

The House and Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees all have jurisdiction given that the bill deals with both communications and copyright.

Broadcasters want a "clean" bill that does not take aim at their retrans protections. Cable operators have argued STELA is the right place for reforms, in part because it is a must-pass bill and because it does deal directly with the FCC's regulatory oversight of retrans disputes via that "good faith" authority.