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May 8, 2014
Dennis Wharton
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Testimony of Marci Burdick at House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing on STELA Reauthorization

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Schurz Communications Senior Vice-President of Broadcasting Marci Burdick testified today at a House Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet hearing on "Compulsory Video Licenses of Title 17."

Below is a transcript of her testimony as prepared for delivery.

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Good afternoon, Chairmen Coble and Goodlatte, Ranking Members Nadler and Conyers, and members of the Subcommittee. I'm Marci Burdick, Senior Vice President for Schurz Communications. We own 11 television stations and have operating partnerships with two others. I am testifying today on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters, and our more than 1300 free, local, over-the-air-television station members from across the country.

While I am happy to answer any questions on the video compulsory licenses in Title 17, my focus today is on the expiring distant signal satellite license commonly referred to as "STELA". NAB's position on the STELA reauthorization is simple. First, given technological advancements and licensing alternatives, we ask this Committee take a hard look at whether this distant signal license continues to benefit consumers and should be allowed to sunset as originally intended.

Second, should this Committee conclude that this satellite compulsory license is still warranted, NAB supports a narrow, temporary reauthorization that does nothing to expand the scope of the license or undermine broadcasters' ability to be compensated for our programming or to serve our local communities.

Twenty-six years ago, at a time when "Rain Man" was at the top of the U.S. box office and CD's outsold vinyl records for the first time, Congress created the distant signal satellite television compulsory license in the Satellite Home Viewer Act as a means to spur competition against the big incumbent cable monopolies. SHVA and successive extensions also aimed to enhance localism by promoting the broad availability of locally-focused broadcast television without undermining the viability of its uniquely free business model.

It is clear that this Committee's work was a success, as the satellite companies have evolved into the country's second and third largest pay-TV providers, and broadcast television is as popular as ever 97 of the top 100 most watched primetime shows in the last television season aired on our stations. Today there are no longer technical reasons preventing any market from receiving local-into-local broadcast service, as DISH has demonstrated. More than 98 percent of all U.S. TV households can view their local network affiliates by satellite.

This legal framework allows local TV stations to deliver high quality local news, weather, sports and emergency services to communities across the country. In 2013, for example, Schurz's WDBJ-TV in Roanoke, VA added jobs and resources by investing in a new local news bureau in Forest, VA, just as it had done previously in Danville and will again this year in Martinsville. But Schurz is not alone: the local TV stations serving the Commonwealth of Virginia produced over 57,000 hours of original, live, local, newscasts in 2013. That marked an increase for a fourth consecutive year. To encourage localism this Committee should identify the precise number and nature of households that the distant satellite license continues to serve, and whether those households could be more effectively served by the local licensee.

NAB is also attentive to the needs of viewers who reside in counties located in out-of-state Designated Market Areas (DMA), but desire to receive in-state broadcast programming. NAB is committed to making in-state broadcast programming available through existing statutory remedies and to finding marketplace solutions for carriage of non-duplicative, in-state broadcast programming.

We caution this Subcommittee against legislating new exceptions to copyright law when, in many instances, cable, and particularly satellite providers, are not taking full advantage of existing and available statutory or marketplace options to carry in-state broadcast programming. We also urge you to reject calls from pay-TV seeking additional exceptions that would permit a satellite carrier to import a distant signal during a contractual impasse not based on need, but to gain unfair market leverage in the retransmission consent negotiation which would be contrary to decades of Congressional policy aimed to promote localism.

In conclusion, if this Committee decides to once again reauthorize the distant signal satellite license, that is an effort NAB can support. But, with that support, we ask you to take a hard look at whether the Section 119 license continues to serve consumers, and urge you to reject calls from the satellite providers to expand the scope of the compulsory Section 119 license in order to give them a leg up in market-based retransmission consent negotiations.

Thank you for inviting me to testify before you today. I am happy to answer your questions.

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About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. NAB advances radio and television interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at

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