Sen. Wicker Introduces STELAR Renewal

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has introduced a clean renewal of the STELAR Act with yet another name, the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization (STAR) Act.

STELAR, and if it passes, STAR, provides for a compulsory license allowing satellite operators--Dish and DirecTV--to import distant network affiliated TV station signals to markets that lack them. The law expires at the end of the year.

Related: IBEW Calls for Renewal of STELAR

Wicker is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the compulsory license with Judiciary.

The bill would simply change the expiration date from 2019 to 2024, extending the law for another five years as well as the requirement that TV stations and MVPDs, when they do negotiate individually for signals (retrans/must carry) do so in good faith.

Generally, broadcasters want the license to expire and cable and satellite operators want it renewed.

Related: Senate Takes Long Look at STELAR

The bill is expected to be marked up next week.

“ATVA applauds Senator Wicker for his leadership on this important issue," said Trent Duffy, spokesman for the American Television Alliance, comprising MVPDs and others seeking STELAR renewal and retrans reforms in the bargain. "870,000 families across the country shouldn’t suffer a Congressional TV blackout, but that is exactly what will happen if Congress fails to act," ATVA said.

While Wicker's bill is a simple re-up, ATVA is looking for more. "We urge the committee to not only renew the current law but to fix this broken system that has brought record blackouts and allowed broadcasters to raise fees paid by cable and satellite customers by more than 5,000%. Enough is enough," said Duffy.

“We support renewing STELAR to protect 870,000 of our country’s most rural consumers who are at risk of losing their broadcast channels at the end of this year," said AT&T executive VP of federal relations Tim McKone. "We applaud Chairman Wicker for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with all Members of Congress for final passage in the remaining weeks of this year.”

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.