Satellite bill may include a bunch of goodies for pay-TV industry

That there’s yet another battle shaping up in Congress, isn’t really surprising, but the focal point is: The usually tame legislation allowing satellite TV providers to retransmit broadcasters’ signals – for a fee – is up for renewal.

Congress seemed likely to reauthorize the 2010 Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act without much ado – the chairman of the Communications Subcommittee, Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) as recently as December, had said he wanted to pass a “clean” bill, one not loaded down with unrelated baggage.

Now, according to Politico, a new draft of the proposed legislation is being stuffed as full as a carry-on.

Politico said the GOP is adding “cable goodies” like allowing pay-TV providers to offer a basic tier sans broadcasting channels, eliminate CableCARD requirements and potentially change current retransmission negotiating rules.

A draft of the bill should come within the next month.

When it does, count on loud opposition from broadcasters unwilling to give up any leverage they currently have over pay-TV services.

“Retransmission consent is a free market negotiation that allows broadcasters to negotiate fair compensation for our most watched TV programming,” National Association of Broadcasters’ spokesman Dennis Wharton said. “It is wholly unrelated to a possible STELA reauthorization. NAB will oppose any linkage between the two.”

It’s clear some form of retrans “massaging” will happen, what’s less certain is whether the end result will be any more consumer friendly.

Disputes between broadcasters and operators that resulted in blackouts for consumers reached all-time highs the past two years.

Some, like the spat between CBS and Time Warner Cable, lasted several weeks and left viewers looking for alternatives to both TWC and CBS. 

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn