Chairman Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member Collins (R-GA) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) reached a compromise Wednesday evening on Lofgren’s amendment relating to the required time frame within which AT&T must serve all 210 markets with local-into-local (180 days) in order to use the bill’s narrowed/permanent distant signal license for RVs/trucks and short markets on an ongoing basis. This agreement was incorporated into the final package which again, was passed this morning. The original bill was 120 days. Lofgren’s amendment was for 2 years. The compromise was 180 days.
Separately, the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed a renegotiated version of the STELAR legislation. This modified legislation will (1) extend the good faith requirements permanently (rather than the five year extension that was in the original bill); (2) impose new requirements on the cable and satellite industry relating to billing transparency (over which NAB has no concerns); and (3) affirm that it is not a violation of good faith for a “small” MVPD to designate a buying group to negotiate retransmission consent on its behalf.
This final provision on the buying group has been the subject of intensive negotiation in close coordination with the NAB STELAR committee over the last few days that ultimately resulted in a substantially modified framework relative to the original bill. Under the negotiated language the good faith requirement would apply only: (1) to a buying group representing individual MVPDs with 500,000 or less subscribers (reduced from 5 million in the original Eshoo/Scalise bill and 1 million in Chairman Doyle’s base text), (2) a buying group with a total local reach not greater than 25 percent (reduced from 35 percent in the base text), and (3) to negotiations with a broadcast group with a national reach of more than 20 percent. The modified bill also includes a provision specifying that it is a violation of good faith for the buying group to disclose the prices, terms or conditions of an ongoing negotiation or final deal to an MVPD that does not intend to be bound by those final terms.
Gordon Smith, President of the National Association of Broadcasters released a statement, “While we continue to question the need for STELAR legislation, a ‘permanent good faith’ requirement is far preferable to the current five-year STELAR renewal cycle that has incentivized pay TV companies to force broadcast TV programming disruptions that harm consumers.”
NAB and MAB continues to have significant concerns with this construct as a general matter. Chairman Wicker’s Senate Commerce process on the bills discussed in committee remains uncertain at this time.