Sources: Senate Commerce Slates Oct. 23 STELAR Hearing

According to multiple sources, the Senate Commerce Committee is planning to hold a hearing Oct. 23 on the STELAR compulsory license. The law expires every five years unless renewed.

STELAR is the latest name for the bill/law that dates from 1988 and that established the compulsory license that allows satellite operators to import distant network TV station signals into local markets where viewers lack access to them for a variety of reasons.

Related: Copyright Office Says to Let STELAR Expire

The House took its first pass at STELAR in a hearing June 4, but there has been less Hill light and heat on the issue than in past renewals this late in the five-year cycle.

The law has to be renewed by the end of the year or it expires--Congress can also extend it if a renewal is in the works but work on it extends beyond Dec. 31.

Related: Grange Roots for STELAR Reauthorization

There aren't many legislative days left to hold hearings in the relevant committees of jurisdiction--House and Senate Commerce and Judiciary--and figure out whether the license expires, as broadcasters want, is extended, as cable operators want and, if it is extended, whether it will be a vehicle for changes to the retransmission consent regime. Expiration is unlikely, as are big changes to retrans, essentially the extremes of the broadcast and cable positions, respectively.

Meanwhile, legislators on both sides of the aisle are focused on impeachment proceedings against the President, which has only widened a political divide that must be somewhat bridged if the Republican-controlled Senate and Democrat-controlled House are to vote on either renewal or expiration. 

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.