H.R. 4572, STELA Reauthorization Act

H.R. 4572

STELA Reauthorization Act

Date
July 22, 2014 (113th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

On Tuesday, July 22, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 4572, the STELA Reauthorization Act, as amended, under a suspension of the rules.  H.R. 4572 was introduced on May 6, 2014 by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, which ordered the bill reported, as amended, by voice vote.

Bill Summary

H.R. 4572 amends the Communications Act of 1934 to extend the expiring provisions related to the retransmission of signals of television broadcast stations by satellite providers.  This legislation extends for five years the compulsory copyright for broadcast content and the exemption for satellite providers from the requirement to obtain retransmission consent for distant signals.  This legislation also prohibits television broadcast stations from coordinating negotiations or negotiating on a joint basis with another television broadcast station in the same local market to grant retransmission consent to a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD).  Moreover, H.R. 4572 establishes a process to delay the application of the FCC’s deadline required for the unwinding of joint sales agreements (JSAs) that are not granted a waiver from the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) local television ownership rule.  H.R. 4572 also repeals the FCC’s integration ban for operator-leased cable set-top boxes, and eliminates the prohibition of changing a broadcaster’s signal on MVPD systems during quarterly Nielsen network ratings periods.

H.R. 4572 also requires the Comptroller General of the United States, within 18 months of enactment, to conduct a study analyzing and evaluating legislative changes if Congress phased out the exemptions to the retransmission consent and copyright licensing requirements for distant signals. The legislation also directs satellite carriers to submit annual reports to the FCC regarding the availability of local signals in local markets. H.R. 4572 requires the FCC to evaluate and report on consumer access to broadcast signals outside of the local market and on technically feasible alternatives to the use of the Nielsen Designated Market Areas to define broadcast media markets that would provide greater options to consumers.

Background

“Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) operators are significant facilities-based competitors in the market for delivering multi-channel video programming.”[1]  Like cable operators and other MVPDs, DBS operators retransmit local broadcast programming as part of tiered content packages.[2]  Due to the fact that some customers have trouble receiving over-the-air signals due to terrain or distance from a broadcasting station, Congress passed the Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1988 (SHVA), which allowed satellite operators to deliver out-of-market broadcast signals to these consumers under a compulsory copyright license.[3]  Congress later exempted satellite operators from the obligation to secure retransmission consent to retransmit distant stations’ signals. Both provisions have been renewed by Congress multiple times.[4]  This legislation reauthorizes these provisions, providing DBS operators “with the legal basis on which they currently offer distant signals to more than 1.5 million subscribers.”[5]  H.R. 4572 also attempts to work to ensure the availability of distant signals to consumers, while also protecting the rights of local broadcasters and content providers.[6]

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[1] See Committee Report 113-518, at 4.
[2] Id. at 4.
[3] Id. at 4.
[4] Id. at 4.
[5] Id. at 4-5.
[6] Id. at 5.

Cost

CBO estimates that implementing H.R. 4572 would cost about $1 million over the 2015-2019 period, assuming the availability of appropriated funds.[7]

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[7] http://www.cbo.gov/sites/default/files/cbofiles/attachments/hr4572.pdf

Additional Information

For questions or further information contact the GOP Conference at 5-5107.