Farm Groups Have Big Beef with STELAR

Agricultural groups, including those representing farms with dairy cows and beef steer, have told Congress it needs to put the STELAR law "out to pasture." 

In a letter to the chairs and ranking members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, the groups expressed their strong opposition to renewal of the law, which provides for a compulsory license that allows satellite operators to deliver distant TV network signals to markets that lack them, including smaller markets that lack them because the carriers--specifically DirecTV--have found there is not a business case for going there.  

Related: Copyright Office Says to Let STELAR Expire 

"Rural Americans rely on local broadcasting for critical information and news about our local communities and, especially when we are out in the field, up-to-the minute weather and emergency information," they told the legislators. "This is critical local information not only for the productivity of our lands, but also for the safety of our livestock and families. Yet, because of STELAR, major satellite television providers are carrying television stations from outside these rural areas rather than the local stations themselves." 

Unlike cable operators, DBS providers don't have to carry local stations, though if they carry one in a market they must carry all. There are a dozen markets where DirecTV does not deliver local TV stations but instead uses the license to import distant signals. 

They also suggested that Congress is better off focusing on closing the rural broadband divide while preserving the broadcast connection that is a "unique and irreplaceable link to our communities," said Jack Alexander, president, Rural & Agricultural Council of America.

"Broadband connectivity is critical to our futures, but local broadcast television is part of our heartland’s past, present and future," they said. "As your Committees begin consideration of the video marketplace, we urge you not to extend this decades-old satellite law but instead to make closing the digital divide your top priority." 

The letter comes in advance of a planned Senate hearing on STELAR Oct. 23. Signatories include the American Dairy Coalition, U.S. Cattlemen's Association and the National Association of Wheat Growers. 

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.