STELAR Legislation to be Voted by Senate Commerce Committee on Wednesday

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a vote on the Satellite Television Extension Localism Act Renewal (STELAR) for Wednesday, November 13th.  Enacted 30 years ago, the legislation created an exemption for satellite providers to import distant broadcast signals to those homes that could not receive a local signal over the air.   Since that time satellite providers, including ATT/Direct TV and DISH have provided “local into local” service, in all NY markets. This obviates the need to import signals from distant markets (ATT/DirecTV still does not provide local into local service in about 12 rural markets not located in New York.)  Unfortunately, STELAR’s renewal become an opportunity for satellite and cable companies to attempt to add a list of new regulations on television stations.

The politics are complex.  Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R. MS) has proposed to simply extend STELAR for another 5 years.  It would not add any regulations, and would simply be a “clean” extension. However, Sen. Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham notes that STELAR is a copyright issue (which it is), and that it should be extended for only a year.   

Several members of the Senate commerce Committee want to provide amendment.  Ranking member Senator Maria Cantwell (D. WA) wants to make permanent the good faith negotiation requirement now included in STELAR. Senator Ed Markey (D. MA) wants to add provisions dealing with “orphan” markets.  His particular concern is that Berkshire County Massachusetts is located in the Albany TV market. He wants two Massachusetts station to be carried in Berkshire County. (NYSBA has been working on this issue to protect Albany stations non-duplication rights)  No doubt there will be a flurry of other amendments. 

The situation is complex.  NAB is supporting Senator Cantwell’s efforts to make the good faith negotiation requirement permanent. NAB wants the issue settled, and eliminate the incentive to attach new regulatory rules every time STELAR is renewed. We agree.

We are keeping a close watch on this bill and have been in contact with Senator Schumer’s office.  In addition, we are focusing attention on Senator Markey’s effort to allow a Springfield and a Boston station to be carried in Berkshire County in the Albany DMA.


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