One of America's leading authorities on technology and telecom policy, Motley is a writer, television and radio commentator, political and policy strategist, lecturer, debater, activist, and policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.
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Wednesday brings us a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).
You hear STELA, you think Marlon Brando. But this mandatory renewal – the old law expires December 31 – is crucial to keeping satellite television subscribers connected to the shows they like.
And is a skirmish in a broader Crony Socialism war. STELA in part addresses what is called Retransmission Consent.
“Retransmission consent is a provision of the 1992 United States Cable Television Protection and Competition Act.
“(It) requires cable operators and other…distributors (like satellite) to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming.
“In exchange, a broadcaster may propose that the operator pay cash to carry the station or ask for any other form of consideration.”
As written, Retransmission Consent is hopelessly tilted in favor of the Broadcasters.
This go round, STELA’s renewal includes a provision to remove but one of these many advantages – the mandate that Providers cannot during Sweeps Weeks pull shows as a last-ditch part of Retransmission negotiations.
Don’t know when Sweeps Weeks are? Neither do I. Meanwhile, look what the Broadcasters can do:
“The feud between Cablevision and the News Corporation has already resulted in an extraordinarily long blackout of programming. Now it threatens to shut Cablevision customers out of the World Series.”
Get that? Providers can’t block Sweeps Weeks – whenever they are – but Broadcasters can block things like the World Series and the Super Bowl. They can – and they do.
At whom do customers get angry when they can’t watch what they want? Hint: it ain’t the Broadcasters. The Broadcasters know this – and they use it in negotiations to fleece the Providers.
And when the Broadcasters fleece the Providers – they fleece us. The more the Providers pay for shows – the more we pay for shows.
So a little more balance would be helpful for everyone – except the Broadcasters, who want to keep every Crony Socialist break they have:
“House Republicans are working on a rewrite of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act that would not be as “clean” as broadcasters would like.”
You mean “clean” – like this?
Policy to emulate, to be sure. But how “clean” is this?
“After fierce lobbying by broadcasters, lawmakers abandoned the most controversial provision, which would have allowed cable providers to drop broadcast channels from their “basic tier” of programming.
“Allowing cable providers to move broadcast channels into pricier tiers would give them more leverage in programming fights.”
Only in Washington, D.C. is it “controversial” to not have the government mandate which channels go where. Only in DC are all these one-sided government mandates considered capitalism – as the Broadcasters claim.
The Broadcasters are actually the beneficiaries of decades of government good grace – well beyond the uber-tilted Retransmission laws.
They received free from government charge their spectrum – the airwaves they use to broadcast. Surely something the cellular phone companies have eyed as they’ve paid the government tens of billions of dollars for their spectrum.
And now we have the looming spectrum incentive auction. Where Broadcasters get to sell their spectrum – that they, again, received for free – to the cell phone companies (via the government middle man).
I’m sure a company like Verizon – a cell phone company who with Fios is also a television Provider – is thrilled to pay Broadcasters for the spectrum the latter received for free, while also having the government tilt the Retransmission rules against them, in the Broadcasters’ favor.
The Broadcasters have a pretty sweet omni-directional Crony Socialist deal going. Little wonder they are fighting so hard against even the tiniest of changes to it.
[Originally posted at Redstate.com]