Democrats Tee Up STELA Debate Topics

Reauthorization likely to feature discussion of host of issues
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The Democratic staff memo for The June 12 hearing on STELA, the law providing a compulsory license authorizing satellite companies to import TV station signals, lays out the issues expected to be raised in the hearing, which is entitled ""The Satellite Television Law: Repeal, Reauthorize or Revise?"

Legislators on both sides of the aisle have said they would prefer a clean reauthorization, in part because it has the best chance of passage, but were willing to debate a host of issues. If the hearing memo on issues that "may arise" as the committee considers the bill is any indication, a host of issues is what they will get.

Those include:

1. Aereo and its impact on the cost of content and the future of free over the air TV vs. a subscription delivery model.

2. Cablevision v. Viacom, which is the former's lawsuit alleging the latter's bundling practices violate antitrust laws.

3. Program carriage, in particular a recent court ruling that the FCC had not adequately justified its discrimination 4. finding against Comcast in the Tennis Channel decision.

4. Program access, in particular the FCC's unanimous decision under former chairman Julius Genachowski to let the ban on exlusive contracts expire in favor of case-by-case review of complaints.

5. A  la carte legislation, in this case Sen. John McCain's Television Consumer Freedom Act, first reported by B&C/Multichannel News.

6. Shared service agreements, FCC proposals for some limits on them, and their impact on consumers.

7. The rise of original online video content--Netflix' "House of Cards," originals from Hulu and Amazon.

STELA sunsets every five years--at the end of 2014 this time around--unless reauthorized by Congress. Last time it took Congress an extra few months, multiple extensions and a letter from legislators asking rightsholders to continue to honor the license because it had technically sunset. When the bill did pass, the compulsory license was imposed retroactively to cover that interim period.

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