06.10.14

Leahy, Grassley Introduce Legislation to Reauthorize Soon-To-Expire Satellite TV Law

WASHINGTON (Tuesday, June 10, 2014) – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act, a law known as “STELA” that provides certain consumers access to distant broadcast television content by satellite.

STELA’s current authorization expires at the end of the year. In order to ensure a timely reauthorization so that satellite customers who cannot otherwise receive broadcast signals over-the-air do not lose access to their current television content, Leahy and Grassley are introducing the bipartisan Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act today, which extends the law for another five years. If legislation is not passed before the law expires, approximately 1.5 million satellite customers could lose access to their current broadcast television stations.

“Consumers across the country benefit from having nationwide competitors to cable television. Rural consumers, including many in Vermont, rely on a healthy satellite industry that is able to provide service to customers where cable is unable to reach,” said Leahy¸ who will bring the legislation before the full Judiciary Committee later this month.

“My focus is on the consumers who stand to lose access to broadcast television content in the event that Congress is unable to pass a bill by the end of the year.  My bipartisan bill will ensure that those rural viewers are not left in the dark come December 31,” Leahy added.

“Many customers who rely on satellite service don’t have other options for receiving television service.  Reauthorizing this law is important so that the 1.5 million customers who are at risk of losing their satellite service come January will be able to retain access,” Grassley said.  “I look forward to working with Chairman Leahy and stakeholders as we move this bipartisan bill forward.”

The Judiciary Committee held a hearing on STELA in March.  STELA touches on both copyright and communications law and will require coordination between the Senate and House Judiciary Committees as well as the Senate and House Commerce Committees.  The House Energy and Commerce Committee reported a version of STELA on May 8.  

# # # # #

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee
On Introduction of the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act
June 10, 2014

I join today with Senator Grassley to introduce legislation to reauthorize for another five years expiring provisions of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).  This law provides satellite television carriers with the necessary rights to retransmit distant broadcast television programming to households that are otherwise unable to receive local signal over-the-air.  If Congress does not act by the end of the year to reauthorize the distant signal license, approximately 1.5 million consumers will lose access to the broadcast television programming that they are currently receiving. 

The compulsory copyright license system for satellite television has been successful in promoting competition in the video marketplace.  Consumers across the country benefit from having nationwide competitors to cable.  Rural consumers, including many in Vermont, rely on a healthy satellite industry that is able to provide service to customers where cable is unable to reach.  Congress has helped to facilitate the growth of the satellite industry by providing it with a mechanism to clear the rights to broadcast television content, which remains among the most popular. 

Senator Grassley and I are continuing what has always been a bipartisan partnership on satellite television legislation.  I worked with Senator Hatch in 1999 to establish a permanent license allowing satellite carriers to retransmit local television content to consumers.  That license has had an important impact on competition in the video market.  In 2010, I worked with Senator Sessions on STELA.  Satellite television legislation should never be partisan – it should be an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to come together and demonstrate to the American people that we can act responsibly and prevent serious disruption to consumers. 

The bill we are introducing today is a narrow approach.  We are extending the current system for another five years, while also making some minor technical corrections to the existing statutes.  This bill may not please all stakeholders.  Some would like Congress to use this legislation as a vehicle to enact significant changes to the current system that governs the relationship between broadcast television stations and distributors.  Others would prefer that Congress not act at all and simply allow this license to expire.  My focus is on the consumers who stand to lose access to broadcast television content in the event that Congress is unable to pass a bill by the end of the year.  This bill will ensure that they are not left in the dark come December 31.

Our legislation is one half of what the Senate will have to do in order to ensure that 1.5 million consumers are able to maintain the broadcast television signals that they are currently receiving.  I look forward to working with Chairman Rockefeller as we work to fit the necessary Copyright and Communications Act provisions of this bill together.  I also look forward to working with our counterparts in the House in order to protect the consumers relying on this license.

I urge the Senate to support extending STELA for another five years.  I ask unanimous consent that the full bill text be inserted in the Record.   

# # # # #

Press Contact

Press Contact
David Carle: 202-224-3693