Walden Will Seek Abbreviated STELA Renewal

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) signaled Dec. 10 that the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act reauthorization would be less than the five year renewal it has had since it was first passed in 1999 as the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA).

In a speech at the Hudson Institute, Walden said that his just announced effort to launch the process of reforming communications laws was a better place to deal with cable and broadcast reforms, and would roll those up into that process toward passage of a bill in 2015, rather than as part of the STELA reauthorization, which must be done by the end of 2014 or the law sunsets.

Principally, STELA is the law that grants satellite operators a blanket license to deliver distant network-affiliated TV station signals to subscribers who can't get a viewable signal from their in-market affiliate.

Walden said that as part of that communications reformation process, which is to include hearings and working papers throughout 2014, he will be teaming with Judiciary to look at the compulsory license process. "It would make little sense to change the retransmission consent regime without considering the effects of the compulsory licensing system. Video programming is valuable, and creators of video content should be compensated fairly for their work."

He indicated STELA would stay focused on satellite.

"We are committed to maintaining a market for the provision of video service over satellites and improving the quality and flexibility of our nation’s communications laws," he said. "But make no mistake; these are not the same thing. As we work to reauthorize STELA and improve the provision of local television over satellites, advocates would be wise to remember that the satellite laws are not the Cable Act, and vice versa. Our cable laws are in need of updating, too, but the satellite reauthorization is not the time or place for that debate. I look forward to working with my colleagues, industry, and the FCC on updating those laws, as part of the initiative we announced yesterday. We expect to reauthorize the satellite law for less than five years – with an eye toward rolling up those provisions under the more comprehensive update."

But retrans will come up in STELA regardless. Another part of STELA that expires unless reauthorized is the FCC's authority to mandate good faith negotiations in retrans disputes.

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.