STELAR Becomes Law

Though not a big surprise, the President has signed the new STELAR satellite compulsory license bill, making it the official law of the land for another five years.

STELAR renews the license, makes some retrans regime changes, mandates a review of the FCC's definition of good faith bargaining, and sunsets the ban on integrated set-tops.

"ACA is very pleased that President Obama has signed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act (STELAR) into law," said American Cable Association president Matt Polka.

ACA had pushed for retrans changes, and although it did not get all it wanted, the group was pleased with what did remain in the bill. "This new statute will make important changes in communications policy sought by independent cable operators for many years," said Polka. "Competition and consumers are the clear beneficiaries of this new law, which arrived at the White House because of consistent bipartisan support for sensible change in both the House and Senate."

Among those changes was banning the joint retrans negotiations among separately owned TV stations in a market. The FCC already voted to prohibit those coordinated negotiations among the top four stations in a market, but the bill extended that to all non-commonly owned stations.

"Congress acted in response to ACA-collected evidence showing that such retransmission consent collusion was occurring in about 20% of the country's 210 local TV markets and resulting in substantially higher retransmission consent fee payments compared to markets where such collusion was not taking place," Polka said.

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.