FCC Makes Congress' STELAR Modifications

The Federal Communications Commission has officially modified its rules and deadlines to comply with the directives in the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR), which include prohibiting coordinated retrans negotiations among noncommonly owned, same-market stations.

The order, adopted Feb. 13 but not released until this week, takes a number of other steps.

STELAR is the bill that, primarily, reauthorizes the distant signal compulsory license, but includes some other FCC authorities that needed renewing, plus a few additions from Congress in its most recent reauthorization of the license, including sunsetting the FCC ban on integrated set-tops.

The FCC order extends the FCC's authority to enforce good-faith retrans negotiations until Dec. 31, 2015; prohibits a TV station from preventing an MVPD from carrying significantly viewed signals, and eliminates the prohibition on MVPDs dropping TV station signals during sweeps periods.

To allow MVPDs to import significantly viewed stations, the FCC added this new subsection to its retrans rules:

"[To] prohibit a television broadcast station from limiting the ability of a [MVPD] to carry into the local market of such station a television signal that has been deemed significantly viewed...or any television broadcast signal such distributor is authorized to carry, unless such stations are directly or indirectly under common de jure control permitted by the Commission."

Since the FCC is just complying with statutory updates and modifications that allow it no administrative discretion, it made the changes without notice or comment.

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.