A STAR Is Born

The Wire does not know if this has any bearing on whether the satellite compulsory license has finally established itself as a fixture in the legislative firmament — pay TV providers hope so — but the law’s name game appears to have found a winner, given that it deals with heavenly bodies, as it were.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) on Nov. 6 introduced the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization (STAR) Act (see Rules), the latest reauthorization of STELAR, which is itself the latest legislative incarnation of the law that allows satellite operators to import distant network-TV station signals to viewers who can’t get a local, off-air, signal.

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At one time or another, the legislation, as a bill or a draft bill, has been called SHVA (the Satellite Home Viewer Act), SHVIA (the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act), SHVERA (the Satellite Home Viewer Extension & Reauthorization Act), SHVURA (the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act), the vowel-challenged SHVDTA (the Satellite Home Viewer Digital Television Act), STELA (the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act) and before Wicker’s latest stab, STELAR, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization, and now, a STAR is born. Perhaps it is appropriate for a bill coming out of Congress that a star begins life as a big cloud of gas.

The last two versions of the name were at least an adjectival effort to tie it to the topic, i.e. twinkling celestial bodies that some people are wishing on (“geostationary satellites flash with glints of reflected sunlight,” says a post on the NASA website). Broadcasters wish the license would go away, while cable operators wish legislators would use the law to reform retransmission consent rules.

In any case, the name has come full circle to only four letters and a pronounceable four letters at that. Having tracked this law, and good-naturedly tweaked its namers, from SHVA’s unpronounceable origin, The Wire’s work appears to be done.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.