On Feb. 18, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued an Order amending its rules to implement certain provisions of the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR). The FCC concluded that these amendments—governing the carriage of broadcast signals by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs)—were expressly mandated by STELAR and, therefore, did not require formal notice and comment procedures prior to adoption. Consistent with STELAR:
- The Order eliminates the regulatory prohibition on cable operators deleting or repositioning local broadcast channels during a “sweeps period.”
- The Order expands a recently adopted FCC regulation limiting joint retransmission consent negotiations by “top four” television stations in a market so as to now prohibit any television station from coordinating or engaging in joint retransmission consent negotiations with any other local television stations, unless the two stations are already “directly or indirectly under common de jure control” pursuant to FCC regulations.
- The Order imposes a new regulation prohibiting any local television station from contractually limiting an MVPD’s ability to carry any other distant television signal that the FCC has deemed to be “significantly viewed,” unless the stations are “directly or indirectly under common de jure control” pursuant to FCC regulations.
- The Order extends the existing prohibition on broadcast stations entering into exclusive retransmission consent contracts with any MVPD to Jan. 1, 2020. It similarly extends the existing requirement that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate retransmission consent in “good faith” to Jan. 1, 2020.
- The Order extends the existing exemption from retransmission consent requirements for DBS providers delivering distant network signals to otherwise “unserved households” through Dec. 31, 2019.