NAB Launches Fight Against STELAR Renewal

The fight over renewing the satellite TV license for another half a decade has begun in earnest.

The National Association of Broadcasters is circulating a policy paper on Capitol Hill advocating for not renewing the STELAR law (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act) when it expires at the end of 2019.

STELAR, which was last renewed 2014, reauthorizes the satellite compulsory distant signal license for five years. But last time around it was also a vehicle for some cable-friendly changes to retrans, including renewing the FCC's enforcement of good faith retrans negotiations and extending the commission's prohibition on coordinated retrans negotiations among noncommonly owned TV stations in a market from the top four to all stations.

NAB says it expects MVPDs to push for renewal, but contends there is no justification for compelling the out-or-market carriage to broadcast affiliate-unserved homes given that that number is dropping and in all 210 markets DISH and DirecTV are providing local-into-local TV station carriage.

As for the half-million homes that are still getting imported TV signals thanks to STELAR, NAB says they can be "better served through private business negotiations between satellite companies and local broadcasters."

NAB says the provisions set to expire--and which it argues should expire--are the "discounted" compulsory license, the retrans exemption for the imported out-of-market signals, and the good faith negotiation requirement.

"There is no policy justification or technological reason for STELAR to be reauthorized. The time has come to stop subsidizing billion-dollar satellite TV companies and to instead provide viewers with the local news, weather and emergency information they want and need. Congress should let STELAR expire," NAB said.

“If Congress fails to re-authorize STELAR, hundreds of thousands of consumers, mostly in rural areas, would lose their broadcast channels from satellite," said Trent Duffy, spokesperson for the cable and satellite-backed American Television Alliance. "Congress should not only re-authorize STELAR so rural America can continue receiving all their broadcast channels, but also modernize the retransmission consent rules, which currently favor broadcasters at the expense of consumers and competition.”

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.