House passes satellite reauthorization bill as key opponent says he won't stand in the way

The House of Representatives passed a compromise version of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR), keeping intact language that would end the FCC's ban on set-top boxes with integrated security features.

It's the second time the House has passed STELAR, which at its core enables DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) and Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) to pipe in broadcast signals from distant affiliate stations to rural markets that are unable to receive a network's signal. Without reauthorization of STELA, 1.5 million satellite TV homes situated in rural areas would be without one, several or all of the major broadcast networks come Jan. 1.

This latest version of STELAR includes key language from the Senate's parallel bill, the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA), which calls for an end to the FCC's 2007 CableCard rule. This mandate was intended to spur the development of a retail set-top market, a dynamic that still hasn't occurred.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has been a key opponent of STAVRA because it ends the integrated security ban, but he told Multichannel News he won't stand in the way of the compromise bill becoming law. "I remain deeply concerned about the provision in the STELAR Act that will force more consumers to rent their video set top box from their cable provider," he told the trade in an email. "But I will not block Senate passage of bipartisan legislation that I otherwise support and that will benefit millions of Americans."

The passed version of STELAR also includes language that supports an FCC ban on jointly negotiated retransmission deals made by broadcasters. Under the bill, broadcasters would have six months to unwind any such deals made in the past.

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
House looks to reconcile STELA, STAVRA satellite bills, keep language on CableCard elimination
Senators look to kill STAVRA if CableCard language isn't taken out
Senate passes (relatively) clean STAVRA bill
Sen. McCaskill expected to abandon attempt to add pay-TV regulation to STAVRA
Broadcasters force further dilution of STAVRA
Verizon urges FCC to get rid of the set-top integrated security ban