Commerce Committee Field Hearing Shows Need to Address Retrans in STELA

Washington, D.C. August 20, 2013 — The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Subcommittee held a field hearing in Little Rock, Arkansas, Monday on the “state of communications on the ground” in “rural and urban America” and one message was repeated by multiple witnesses: it’s time to reform retransmission consent. Further, these witnesses stressed the need to do so within the context of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).

Dean Kurtz, representing CenturyLink, stated in his written testimony: “Looking forward, we encourage you to continue the Subcommittee’s thoughtful look at the technological changes and the barriers to competition in the video market, especially as the Committee considers reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). In particular, we hope the Committee will consider modernization of the 1992 Cable Act’s rules for retransmission consent.”

In addition, in his testimony prepared for the hearing, John Strode, on behalf of Ritter Communications Holdings and the American Cable Association, told the subcommittee that “Congress and the FCC must act to fix the old laws that govern access to content and programming to reflect today’s video marketplace.”

Strode also referred to lawmakers who want to “do nothing more” with STELA than “change a few dates in the existing law,” and said to Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR): “As Chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, we hope you would keep an open mind regarding the issues that should be considered as part of the STELA reauthorization…”

We agree with Strode that it’s vital that Sen. Pryor and the rest of the subcommittee “act to fix the old laws” of retrans, and specifically within the context of STELA.  After all, there is nothing “clean” about our broken retransmission consent system.