During a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of the 2010 Satellite Television and Localism Act (STELA), representatives of multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) squared off against the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) on the topic of retransmission reform. Those MVPDs argued for bill provisions that would prohibit broadcasters from blacking out station signals as a result of stalled retransmission consent negotiations. Members of the House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the Internet conducted the hearing last Thursday as the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed legislation that would extend the compulsory licensing provisions of STELA beyond their scheduled December 2014 expiration date through 2019. Among other things, the Energy & Commerce Committee bill would also (1) prohibit TV broadcasters in the same market from jointly negotiating retransmission consent deals with MVPDs and (2) require broadcasters that are parties to joint sales agreements (JSAs) to disband such agreements by December 31, 2016 or within 18 months of an FCC ruling that rejects a waiver of recently-enacted agency regulations that treat existing JSAs as attributable ownership interests. As the NAB filed a court challenge against a related FCC policy notice on shared service arrangements among television broadcasters (see story below), broadcast executive Marci Burdick testified on the NAB’s behalf against proposed retransmission reforms that “would undermine local broadcasters’ right to be fairly compensated for programming.” Although Burdick endorsed a “temporary, narrow reauthorization” of STELA that omits additional provisions to address the problem of  broadcast carriage blackouts, DISH Network Executive Vice President R. Stanton Dodge joined American Cable Association CEO Matthew Polka in advocating for provisions that mandate continued station carriage during retransmission disputes. As Dodge recommended the institution of baseball-style arbitration to end such disputes, Polka further advised the panel that broadcasters should also be barred from blocking subscriber access to free online content when their cable or satellite TV provider is involved in a retransmission dispute. Countering, however, that the only leverage a broadcaster has during a retransmission impasse is to “pull the plug,” Burdick suggested “we should all do a better job of educating consumers about free over-the-air television” that is available to MVPD subscribers impacted by blackouts.