On  the  heels  of  last  week’s  House  vote  to  adopt  satellite  reauthorization legislation that would extend the direct broadcast satellite (DBS) compulsory license through 2019,  the compromise bill, known as the STELA Reauthorization Act (STELARA), passed the Senate late last  Thursday.

Senate adoption of STELARA was achieved through hotlining—an off-the-floor method of winning fast  track passage through which a bill is adopted unanimously without a roll call, provided no  objections are received. (If any “nays” are registered, the measure is then relegated to the  customary processes of debate and floor vote.) Observers also say that a potential impediment to  STELARA’s passage was removed when Senator Ed Markey (D-MA)—a sponsor of competing Senate  legislation that would also extend the DBS compulsory license—committed not to block the measure in  spite of his objections to provisions that eliminate the integrated set-top box ban.

In addition to extending the DBS compulsory license through 2019, STELARA would make several  important changes to the retransmission consent process that are expected to lay the groundwork   for more comprehensive reforms. Specifically, broadcasters would be: (1) prohibited from  participating in joint retransmission consent negotiations with other broadcasters that serve the  same market, (2) barred from preventing the entry of “significantly viewed” signals from other  designated market areas into their local markets, and (3) given a six-month extension of the FCC  deadline to unwind joint sales agreements. As reported last week, STELARA requires the FCC to  review its definition of “good faith negotiations” within the context of retransmission consent and  establish a technical working group to make recommendations on a downloadable security system to  replace the existing “CableCard” set top box security solution. STELARA also permits the FCC to act  on requests to add or subtract areas from a local television market in accordance with a market  modification process prescribed by the legislation.

STELARA now moves to the desk of President Obama who is expected to sign the measure into law. As  the National Cable  &  Telecommunications Association predicted that STELARA “will appropriately  update our nation’s video laws to better reflect the realities of today’s robustly competitive  video marketplace,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) declared that STELARA “shows the  American people how Congress can come together in a bipartisan and bicameral fashion to pass legislation.”