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DirecTV, Dish Applaud STELA Reauthorization

New York — Satellite-TV rivals DirecTV and Dish joined their voices Wednesday in a statement supporting Congressional efforts to reauthorize the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA):

“On behalf of our 34 million DirecTV and Dish subscribers, we thank Chairmen Upton and Walden, Ranking Members Waxman and Eshoo and the entire House Energy & Commerce Committee for their bipartisan work to reauthorize STELA for five more years. We support H.R. 4572, the ‘STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014,’ as an important step in Congress’ 2014 STELA reauthorization process.”

The satellite-TV companies said 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.”

According to a Multichannel News report, a proposed compromise is expected to be substituted in the committee’s bill at markup on May 8 that would among other things: extend STELA for five years, including the retransmission consent exemption for distant network TV station signals imported into a market without them.

It would also extend the requirement for good faith retransmission consent negotiations while prohibiting exclusive TV station carriage contracts.

TV stations would also be prohibited from jointly negotiating retransmission with another station in the same market unless the stations are commonly owned, and eliminates a rule that prohibits cable operators from dropping a TV station during a sweeps period.

Broadcasters would also not have to unwind existing joint sales agreements until the end of 2016. The provision would give broadcasters more time to dissolve the sharing agreements than the FCC had ordered in March 31 JSA crackdown.

In another provision, the proposed markup of the House bill would also reportedly eliminate the set-top box integration ban from FCC CableCard rules. The ban could be reinstated, however, if the FCC deems it necessary.

DirecTV provides digital television service to more than 20 million U.S. subscribers and more than 18 million customers in Latin America.

 Dish serves approximately 14.06 million pay-TV subscribers, as of Dec. 31, 2013.