The Legislative Year Ahead

As we sprint into 2019, your NYSBA team is gearing up for a challenging year.  This will be an exciting year. In Washington, we expect several significant issues to arise.

Retransmission Consent

Once again the cable and satellite industries will attempt to undermine the current retransmission consent process for television stations.  This battle will take place on Capitol Hill has part of the STELA reauthorization.  Years ago, before satellite systems had the capacity to carry local TV stations in their own local markets, satellite systems were allowed by law to import signals from distant markets for those consumers who could not receive local stations over the air.   The law has long outlived its importance. Nonetheless, it gets renewed every few years and has become a legislative vehicle for criticizing the retransmission consent process. NYSBA believes it’s time to put an end to STELA.  The current retransmission consent process is working.  Local television stations provide the most watched programming on cable and satellite systems and deserved to be compensated.

Performance Fees and Copyright

New York City’s own Jerry Nadler (NY D 10th) takes the reigns a Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.  Representative Nadler has long championed the imposition of a performance fee on radio broadcasts.  While the Judiciary Committee is likely to focus a majority of its time on issues concerning President Trump, we can expect him to try to move legislation that would establish a performance fee.

We can also expect new challenges regarding music licensing.  The rates charged by BMI and ASCAP are established by a consent decree which is governed by the courts.  Last year the Department of Justice changed its position and argued that the consent decrees are no longer necessary.  NAB, with the help of State Broadcast Associations, was able to include language in the recently passed Music Modernization Act, which required Congress to be notified if the DOJ sought to eliminate the consent decrees.  Bottom line, you can expect music licensing to become a major issue in 2019.

While these issues will be discussed, it is worth remembering that we have a divided Congress.  Legislation that passes a House of Representatives controlled by the Democrats may not pass a Republican controlled Senate.

There will be significant changes in the New York State Government.  The New York State Senate, which has been controlled by the Republicans, flipped last year.  As a result, the Democrats now control the Assembly, Senate and the Governor’s Office.  Legislation that has long been blocked by the Senate will now move.  We are monitoring a number of potential bills that could impact local broadcasters.


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