Source: Deal Struck on STELAR Successor Bills

A source familiar with the agreement said that there is a bicameral, bipartisan deal on House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary versions of bills that would essentially end the every-five-year STELAR reauthorization cycle, which has been a goal of the National Association of Broadcasters. STELAR's renewal has been used as a vehicle for proposed retrans reforms NAB has opposed as unnecessary. 

The agreement involves the chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Commerce Committees (Energy & Commerce in House) and House and Senate Judiciary Committees. 

The STELAR-related bills will be rolled into spending legislation that must pass to keep the government chugging along past Dec. 20. A tentative deal on that spending bill was hammered out Thursday.  A vote on that overall budget deal is expected to be held early next week.

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), in an interview with B&C, had said that the House E&C's Television Viewer Protection Act (TVPA), co-sponsored by Walden and E&C chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) would be packaged with Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler's Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019 ( H.R. 5140) and that there was bipartisan support among committee leadership. 

The bipartisan TVPA, which passed the House this week on a voice vote, makes permanent the mandate that broadcasters and MVPDs negotiate in good faith. That mandate sunsets at the end of the year unless renewed. The bill also gives MVPD buying groups the same good faith guarantee in negotiations, as ACA Connects has lobbied for, requires truth-in-billing fee disclosures by MVPDs--which cable ops weren't calling for--and prohibits MVPDs from charging consumers for some equipment. 

Nadler's bill deals with the satellite compulsory license, which also sunsets at the end of the year. That is the license that allows satellite companies to import distant TV network signals to markets that lack them, as well as to RVs, truckers and tailgaters, all without having to negotiate individually with stations. The Nadler bill would make the license for RVs, truckers and tailgaters permanent, as well as for short markets that lack one of the Big Four network affiliates.

Dish would get that permanent license as of May 31, but DirecTV would only get it if by that date it agreed to deliver local TV station signals via satellite to the dozen remaining markets where it does not provide local signals via satellite, another win for NAB. 

Unlike cable operators, who must carry all local TV stations that request carriage, satellite operators don't have to carry local TV stations, though if they do they must carry them all. 

According to the source, the chairs and ranking members of the relevant House and Senate committees have agreed that the May 31 DirecTV deadline for delivering those local stations is a hard deadline.

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.