House Passes Satellite TV Carriage Bill That Limits Retrans

WASHINGTON—The House passed a law extending the rules governing satellite carriage of broadcast TV signals. The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, which expires at the end of this year, passed the House Tuesday on voice vote. The STELA Authorization provides a five-year extension on rules that limit satellite TV providers’ distribution of out-of-market TV station signals to otherwise unserved households.

The House-approved bill, H.R. 4572, goes beyond the usual reauthorization in that it imposes limits on retransmission consent negotiations and joint sales agreements among TV stations. It also prohibits cable operators from dropping TV signals in retrans disputes during Nielsen sweeps periods.

The limits on retrans involve collective bargaining by same-market stations with different owners. The National Association of Broadcasters said they would not oppose the bill.

The same bill scraps the ban on building the encryption function into cable set-top boxes, the foundation of the failed CableCard effort on the part of regulators to consumerize the set-top and give people more equipment choices.

The bill is now in the hands of the Senate. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-Va.) head of the Senate Commerce Committee, has said he expects to take it up after the August recess.