Sen. McCaskill expected to abandon attempt to add pay-TV regulation to STAVRA

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is expected to withdraw an effort to include in the pending satellite reauthorization bill rules that would give the FCC greater oversight over pay-TV customer service.

Citing "multiple sources," Multichannel News said the amendment to the STAVRA bill would have mandated that the FCC update its customer-service guidelines for pay-TV operators, while also giving the FCC the clear authority to enforce these rules.

Passsage of the Satellite Television Access and Viewer Rights Act (STAVRA) would renew the ability of satellite operators to pipe in broadcast signals from distant affiliate stations to rural markets that are unable to receive a broadcast signal from a particular network.

The Senate Commerce Committee is anxious to pass the bill by the end of the year to coincide with the expiration of the current legislation. However, rival lobbyists from the broadcast and pay-TV industries have influenced attempts to load up this bill with various agendas.

Earlier, for example, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) withdrew a proposal that would have ended retransmission payments to broadcast stations, requiring broadcasters to deal directly with consumers, who could choose broadcast channels on their pay-TV service a la carte

"It's too big a change to be swallowed," Rockefeller told TheHill Tuesday, explaining why the Commerce Committee wouldn't have been able to meet its end-of-year timeline to pass the bill if it would have had to fight off broadcast-industry lobbyists.

But as McCaskill most likely feels, broaching the issue is what mattered. "As people get a taste of being able to say, 'I only watch 10 channels, so I should only pay for 10 channels,' they're going to love that," Rockefeller added. "It's going to spread like wildfire."

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story
- read this story from TheHill

Related links:
Sen. McCaskill asks pay-TV customers to post their pricing complaints
Broadcasters force further dilution of STAVRA
The inside story on how Local Choice got pulled from STAVRA