CWA Calls on Congress to Renew STELAR

The Communications Workers of America has told Congress it should renew the STELAR law that gives satellite carriers, like DirecTV and Dish, a compulsory license to deliver network affiliated TV stations into distant markets without negotiating for the carriage rights individually.

MVPDs want the license renewed, in part in hopes of adding some retrans reforms to the law, while broadcasters want it to sunset so that not only could it not be a vehicle for changes to a retrans system it says is working fine, but also so that DirecTV may then have to deliver local signals to subs in the dozen smaller markets where it does not carry local TV stations.

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In letters to the House and Senate committees overseeing the review/renewal of STELAR, CWA, which represents about 700,000 workers, said it wanted "prompt" renewal, saying that a failure to do so would mean nearly a million mostly rural customers would lose access to those distant signals.

CWA is clearly also worried about jobs.

"Since the last time Congress reauthorized the Satellite Act [five years ago], CWA has gained recognition of tens of thousands of DirecTV employees whose union contract provides good wages, benefits, and working conditions," it told the legislators. "STELAR reauthorization will help protect these good jobs in communities across the United States."

The House Energy & Commerce, Senate Commerce and House and Senate Judiciary Committee leaders got the letters. Congress must either renew STELAR or extend it by Dec. 31 or the law goes away.

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.