Rosenworcel: STELA Could Be Vehicle for Telecom Updates
But that is province of Congress, while FCC's is to faithfully execute the law
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 3/5/2013 1:48:59 PM
In an interview with National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith at NAB's State Leadership conference Tuesday, Smith asked whether STELA could become the vehicle for a telecom rewrite. Her answer was that updates to telecom law often come from exogenous forces or deadlines, and that STELA was a good example of that.
STELA, which authorizes the compulsory license allowing satellite operators to import distant network TV station signals, has to be reauthorized by the end of 2014 or it will sunset.
She pointed out that STELA had been the vehicle for local-into-local service, including Dish and DirecTV's carriage of virtually all local TV stations. But she also pointed out that, ultimately, the FCC's role would be to "faithfully execute" whatever law Congress comes up with.
Rosenworcel shared the dais with commissioner Ajit Pai, and both shared their view of successful incentive spectrum auctions and the communications world beyond.
The commissioners were in agreement that the FCC had not yet decided on how to interpret the statutory mandate that the FCC make all reasonable efforts to protect broadcasters' coverage areas and signals. They urged broadcasters to continue to be part of that conversation. Reply comments in the FCC's auction framework rulemaking are due next week, so the commissioners are getting and will be getting plenty of input.
Pai said it was no single vision, but that a successful auction would require the FCC to be faithful to the statute, keep the process simple and provide a reasonable deadline, though he said the emphasis must be on getting it done right rather than right away.
Rosenworcel said she thought a successful auction, which they all hoped for, would produce a stronger broadcasting business since those left would be committed to serving their local communities, provide needed spectrum for broadband and fund an emergency first responder network. That last is near and dear to her heart since she worked with her former boss, Senate Commerce Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) on the incentive auction legislation that creates and funds that network.
Asked what the main impediment was to completing the FCC's ongoing, and likely to be ongoing for a few more months, media ownership rule review, Pai said there was no one issue, but in fact it was that the issues were interrelated. Smith, a former Senator, agreed, adding: "No amendment is an island."
Rosenworcel said that the issue of minority and female ownership remains a key one, and that Congress could help by passing a new tax certificate law. Both Pai and Rosenworcel agreed that they key to more minority ownership was access to Capitol, which that tax certificate would address. Pai also put in a plug for allowing more foreign investment in TV and radio stations.
Smith gave the FCC props for not stepping into retransmission consent, a line that drew some obvious applause.
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