Dish, DirecTV Back STELA Compromise

Bill would renew blanket license allowing them to deliver distant TV stations to their subs
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Satellite companies Dish and DirecTV Wednesday said they support a compromise struck by House Energy & Commerce Committee members on the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act and urged swift passage.

The bipartisan bill, which is expected to pass in Thursday's markup, does a number of things, including at its heart renewing the compulsory license that allows those operators to deliver distant TV station signals to 1.5 million subs who don't get a local over-the-air version in their market.

Another major element is preventing coordinated retransmission consent negotiations by broadcasters.

"We support H.R. 4572, the ‘STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014,’ as an important step in Congress’ 2014 STELA reauthorization process," the companies said. "Critically, the legislation ensures continuity of service to more than 1.5 million distant signal subscribers who would, otherwise, lose service at the end of this year. It also addresses one of the most egregious forms of retransmission consent abuse – joint negotiating agreements among broadcasters."

The STELA law must be renewed by the end of the year or it sunsets. Also sunsetting would be the FCC's authority to enforce good faith retrans negotiations.

The key element of the compromise removes a provision that would block the FCC's recent vote to make some joint sales agreements attributable under FCC ownership rules, but it would give station owners longer to unwind any JSAs that would put them over those ownership caps, or to otherwise get under the limit.

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