NAB Buries, NCTA Praises, STAVRA Draft

Satellite Bill Highlights Divisions Over Video Reforms

Not surprisingly, the major broadcast and cable trade associations had quite different reactions to the draft of Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) released Friday.

"NAB opposes this proposal because it eliminates the basic tier upon which millions rely for access to lifeline information. It proposes a broadcast a la carte scheme that will lead to higher prices and less program diversity," said National Association of Broadcasters President Gordon Smith. "Furthermore, STAVRA appears to confer unfettered and unprecedented authority for government intervention into private marketplace negotiations."

The draft's Local Choice provision would essentially eliminate negotiated cable and satellite payments for TV station signals, replacing them, beginning in 2017, with direct dealings between broadcasters and MVPD subs who could chose not to pay for or receive TV station signals via their pay TV provider.

"NAB continues to support the noncontroversial and bipartisan clean STELA reauthorization passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which ensures continued access to broadcast television for rural viewers," said Smith.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association did not address any particular element of the draft, which included some retrans revisions and eliminating the set-top integration ban, but it applauded the direction the draft was going.

"We are encouraged by the bipartisan efforts of Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune to advance legislation, titled the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA)," the association said in a statement. "As we have previously stated, we believe that attention to this issue provides an appropriate vehicle for accomplishing limited but meaningful video reforms, and we look forward to working with all members of the committee.”

Add satellite operator DISH to those cheering the bill.

“We applaud Chairman Rockefeller and Ranking Member Thune for their bipartisan effort to ensure continuity of television service to more than 1.5 million distant signal customers and for seeking to reform the outdated and broken system of retransmission consent," DISH said in a statement of renewing the satellite distant signal license. "The ‘Local Choice’ component of STAVRA would put an end to harmful broadcast television blackouts and put more power in the hands of consumers to control their television content," it added.