IBEW Calls for Renewal of STELAR

On behalf of its three quarters of a million members, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) has told Congress it need to review the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization (STELAR) Act.

That is the law that allows satellite carriers to import distant TV network affiliate station signals into markets that lack them.

Related: Senate Takes Long Look at STELAR

The law expires at the end of the year.

In a letter to the leaders of the House Energy & Commerce and Senate Commerce Committees, a copy of which was obtained by Multichannel News, the union said that it had a particular rooting interest in renewal given that AT&T's purchase of DirecTV had seen 3,000 new DirecTV employees join the union and that not reauthorizing the law threatened their jobs.

IBEW cited the 870,000 people who live where one or more network signals are not available, or in the case of truckers and tailgaters are looking for remote access to TV.

"If Congress does not renew the STELAR Act, these 870,000 consumers could lose access to these distant network signals that are an integral part of their satellite TV service causing consumer disruption, dissatisfaction and confusion," it told the legislators. "This is an unacceptable outcome for those consumers and the IBEW members at DirecTV whose jobs depend on a robust competitive satellite video offering."

With time running out for renewal or expiration, it is unlikely that the law, if it is renewed, will become a vehicle for retransmission consent changes MVPDs would like to see, but it is also unlikely to be allowed to expire given the contentiousness of either of those extremes. For example, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee favors renewal, while the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee--they share jurisdiction over STELAR--favors expiration.

A shorter renewal, say three instead of the current five, of essentially the same bill is one possibility since it would give legislators some breathing room to figure out what they want to do next time around.

Receiving the letter were Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Senate Commerce chairman and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) ranking member, and Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and Greg Walden (R-Ore.), ranking member. 

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.