House passes satellite TV bill

The House voted Tuesday to extend and tweak the law governing the satellite television marketplace.

The House approved by voice vote a bill to extend the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA), which is set to expire at the end of the year.

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The bill combines a straightforward reauthorization bill from the House Judiciary Committee with a bill from the House Energy and Commerce Committee that makes some changes to the video marketplace.

Under the bill, broadcasters are kept from jointly negotiating with cable and satellite companies over compensation for broadcast programming and are given more time to unwind resource-sharing arrangements that the Federal Communications Commission effectively banned earlier this year.

The bill also eliminates federal requirements for specific security equipment in cable boxes and eliminates protections for broadcasters during the weeks when ratings are measured.

While Democrats supported the resulting bill, many on the Commerce Subcommittee on Communications are pushing for further reforms.

“These narrow changes only begin to scratch the surface of the broken video marketplace,” Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) said on the House floor Tuesday.

While media companies have grown and prices for cable and satellite television have increased, “the consumer has been left out of the equation,” he said.

“It is time for the consumer concerns to be heard and responded to.”

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Greg Walden (R-Ore.) — chairmen of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Subcommittee on Communications, respectively — have said they will consider more comprehensive changes as part of the Committee’s years-long effort launched last year to update the Communications Act, which governs the telecommunications industries.

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) also pointed to his efforts to examine copyright law, which he launched last year.

Speaking on the House floor Tuesday, Walden touted the bill’s bipartisan compromise.

The reauthorization bill is “yet another example of working together,” which has “long been the hallmark of our Subcommittee and full Committee,” he said.

Walden pushed the Senate to pass a reauthorization bill.

Earlier this year, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed its straightforward reauthorization bill.

Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and ranking member John Thune (R-S.D.) have said they are negotiating over the bill and plan to move something in September.

Rockefeller has pledged to use the reauthorization bill to make changes to the video marketplace, while Thune has predicted the committee will take the less controversial route.

“I can only urge the Senate, the Senate, to act swiftly,” Walden said.