Senators Ask If STELA Should Be Venue For Major Video Reforms

The bipartisan leadership of the Senate Commerce Committee and Communications Subcommittee have sent a letter to stakeholders asking for input on how it should proceed with reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, or STELA.

According to the committee, the letter was being sent to "satellite TV, broadcasters, cable television, online video, broadband, public interest groups, and free market think tanks."

STELA, which expires at the end of the year, established the blanket license that allows satellite operators to deliver network-affiliated TV stations to their subscribers. It also gives the FCC the authority to require good faith bargaining in retransmission consent disputes.

"The pending STELA reauthorization offers the Committee a chance to consider whether present law appropriately protects and promotes a video market that is responsive to consumer demands and expectations. Various stakeholders already have identified a number of issues that the Committee could consider as part of the reauthorization of the Communications Act elements of STELA," the senators wrote. "These issues implicate both traditional entities that provide video services, as well as possible future entrants into the video marketplace."

"In light of the importance of the STELA reauthorization and video policy generally, the Committee would like to solicit your input on the scope and impact of the reauthorization legislation."

Among the STELA-specific questions they wanted answers range from whether it should be renewed at all to whether the definition of good faith bargaining should be clarified.

But they also asked a host of questions about the general video marketplace, including whether the bill should include retransmission consent reforms, whether the must-buy rule for cable should remain in force, should the FCC extend MVPD regs to over-the-top, and a host of others.

On the House side, Republican leadership there wants to reserve many of those issues for a larger, longer look at revamping video regs, while keeping STELA focused on STELA-related issues.

Sending the letter were Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.), Communications chairman Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) and ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.).

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.