CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, November 19, 2014, the House will consider H.R. 5728, the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014, under a suspension of the rules. H.R. 5728 was introduced on November 17, 2014 by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
H.R. 5728 amends the Communications Act of 1934 to extend the expiring provisions related to the retransmission of signals of television broadcast stations by satellite providers. Moreover, H.R. 5728 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. 5728 also sets a one year deadline for the repeal of the FCC’s integration ban for operator-leased cable set-top boxes, and eliminates the prohibition of changing a broadcaster’s signal on multi-channel video programming distributor (MVPD) systems during quarterly Nielsen network ratings periods.
H.R. 5728 amends the Communications Act of 1934 to allow commercial television broadcast stations, upon written request, to modify its local market. In making such a determination, the FCC may determine that particular communities are part of more than one local market and shall afford particular attention to the value of localism. Within nine months of enactment, the FCC would be required to promulgate regulations to implement these changes. Moreover, this legislation extends 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 multiple television broadcast stations in the same local market from coordinating negotiations or jointly negotiating retransmission consent unless they are under common ownership.
H.R. 5728 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. Moreover, the legislation amends the FCC’s existing requirement to publish annual statistical reports on the average rates for basic cable service to include aggregate data on the cost of retransmission consent. Finally, H.R. 5728 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.
“Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) operators are significant facilities-based competitors in the market for delivering multi-channel video programming.” Like cable operators and other MVPDs, DBS operators retransmit local broadcast programming as part of tiered content packages. 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. 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. 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.” H.R. 4572 also reauthorize these provisions to ensure the availability of distant signals to consumers, while also protecting the rights of local broadcasters and content providers.
 See Committee Report 113-518, at 4.
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 Id. at 4.
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 Id. at 4-5.
 Id. at 5.
A CBO cost estimate is currently unavailable.
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