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STELAR Update/Sunset Provisions Added to Spending Bill

As expected, retransmission consent good faith and satellite compulsory license provisions have been included in the FY2020 appropriations legislation, a must-pass bill that keeps the government open. 

Related: Deal Struck on STELAR Successor Bills 

Sandwiched between Title IX (Disaster Recovery Workforce) and Title XII (Groundfish Trawl Fishery) were Title X (Television Viewer Protection) and Title XI (Eligibility to Receive Signals Under a Distant-Signal Satellite License

Those are the Television Viewer Protection Act and the Satellite Television 16 Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019, two House bills appended to the larger appropriations bill after legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both houses agreed to that approach to renewing, or in this case not renewing, the STELAR Act, which expires at the end of December.

Related: Rep Walden Says TVPA Set to Pass in Senate 

The provisions would make the FCC mandate of good faith bargaining in retransmission consent negotiations permanent, sunset some of the satellite compulsory license, while making the license for RVs, truckers and short markets permanent for satellite operators delivering local TV station signals in all 212 markets--Dish already does, AT&T's DirecTV, in order to get the permanent license, would have until May 31, 2020 to serve the dozen or so smallest markets where it does not currently deliver local stations by satellite. 

"NAB strongly supports key pro-consumer provisions in the appropriations bill released today that address the expiring STELAR bill," said National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon Smith. NAB has advocated for sunsetting the license. 

"Under this legislation, AT&T-DirecTV will be encouraged to finally serve all satellite TV subscribers with their local TV stations," Smith said. "The bill also ends the five-year renewal cycle of satellite TV legislation that has incentivized pay TV companies to deny carriage of broadcast TV stations during retransmission consent negotiations." 

NAB was okay with the good faith mandate going away rather than being made permanent, but it is happier with the sunset of the every-five-year STELAR renewal that was used as a vehicle for potential reforms to a retrans system that NAB says is working fine.  

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.