According to multiple industry sources, they are expecting the House Communications Subcommittee to postpone the March 5 hearing on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).
The move could be a snow-related scheduling issue. The federal government was shut down Monday, likely postponing a planned meeting among Republicans, which would have undoubtedly included the topic of the STELA bill they are working on.
But there is also a lot of angst among broadcasters over the cable friendly provisions in that work-in-progress bill, which includes provisions on doing away with must-buy tier placement for retrans stations and some limit on coordinated retrans negotiations.
STELA is the law that established the blanket license allowing satellite operators to import distant affiliated network signals. It must be renewed by the end of the year when it expires. Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) had been signaling he wanted to keep retrans out of STELA to as much as possible, instead addressing them in the larger Communications Act revamp effort he is conducting. That was just fine with broadcasters. But with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association off the retrans sidelines and some Republicans--Rep. Steve Scalise, notably--looking for a bit more than a "clean" STELA bill, that may be a tougher ask.
In any event, if past is prologue, there will be much push and pull over the bill before its final passage, and, to borrow from analyst boilerplate, past versions are no promise of future bills.
A committee spokesperson was not available for comment at press time, but parent Energy & Commerce Committee Web site still listed the hearing for March 5, along with the witness list that included National Cable & Telecommunications Association President Michael Powell, who has just re-upped for another three-year hitch.
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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.