The Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, chaired by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), today held the second in its ongoing hearing series this Congress on the satellite television law, portions of which are set to sunset on December 31, 2014. Members today examined whether the law still serves an important function or if it is out of step with today's video marketplace. Additionally, members discussed whether Congress should reauthorize the law as is, allow it to lapse, or revise it, possibly even tackling non-satellite specific video issues arising from increased competition and evolving technology.
"Congress passed the original law in 1988 to give the then-nascent satellite industry a leg up in providing distant broadcast signals to viewers out of range of local over-the-air signals. Today, however, DirecTV and Dish control one third of the pay-tv market and are the second and third largest pay-tv providers behind Comcast," said Chairman Walden. "I believe in good process, and one of our responsibilities is to make sure we operate publicly and transparently, giving the American people and stakeholders an opportunity to see what is happening and to contribute to the dialogue. The video market is changing rapidly. Phone companies are in the video business now, both over wires and wirelessly. Netflix is offering original programming over the Internet. And Aereo, for better or for worse, could turn everything upside down."
"A lot has changed in the video marketplace since it was first passed in 1988. Satellite television providers are no longer new kids on the block. And cable operators, once the commanding presence in the pay-TV sector, now face competition not just from satellite providers, but phone companies and the Internet as well," added Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI). "We have a year and a half before we must decide what action to take. Let's use that time to make sure we hear from viewers and stakeholders about the actions we should consider, those we should not, and the implications of both. Today was our second of what will be a thoughtful series of hearings as we pursue the appropriate policies."
This hearing built on the subcommittee's February 13, 2013, "Satellite 101" hearing that provided members with a broad overview and history of the satellite television law.