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STELA Gets Its Groove On

WASHINGTON — The House Communications Subcommittee last week waded into the reauthorization — or not — of the license that allows satellite- TV providers to import distant network-TV affiliates into markets “unserved” by local stations.

It could be a “clean” renewal, updating only the dates by which the Satellite Television Extension and Localization Act (STELA) will take effect and expire, but that’s unlikely.

STELA, currently a five-year compulsory license that allows satellite providers to deliver distant TV stations without individual negotiations, expires at the end of 2014, as does the requirement that broadcasters and multichannel-TV producers negotiate carriage deals in good faith.

During the last reauthorization process, the issues surrounding STELA were so contentious and the debate so protracted that the bill did not pass until five months after expiration. That’s one of the reasons for the early start.

At a subcommittee hearing last week titled “Satellite Video 101,” some lawmakers suggested that due to changes in how viewers receive video programming, the reauthorization should also examine such cable-centric issues as must-carry, retransmission consent, cable’s own compulsory distant-signal license or video regulations in general. Though she said she would prefer a clean renewal, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) also raised the retrans issue.

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), a deregulation advocate, was one of those who suggested a broad look. “It’s clear that based on some of today’s written testimony, that as much as folks want to focus only on the expiring narrow satellite provisions, that there’s an interest in raising other interconnected issues,” he said.