Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has introduced a clean renewal of the STELAR Act with yet another name, the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization (STAR) Act.
STELAR, and if it passes, STAR, provides for a compulsory license allowing satellite operators--Dish and DirecTV--to import distant network affiliated TV station signals to markets that lack them. The law expires at the end of the year.
Wicker is the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which shares jurisdiction over the compulsory license with Judiciary.
The bill would simply change the expiration date from 2019 to 2024, extending the law for another five years as well as the requirement that TV stations and MVPDs, when they do negotiate individually for signals (retrans/must carry) do so in good faith.
Generally, broadcasters want the license to expire and cable and satellite operators want it renewed.
The bill is expected to be marked up next week.
“ATVA applauds Senator Wicker for his leadership on this important issue," said Trent Duffy, spokesman for the American Television Alliance, comprising MVPDs and others seeking STELAR renewal and retrans reforms in the bargain. "870,000 families across the country shouldn’t suffer a Congressional TV blackout, but that is exactly what will happen if Congress fails to act," ATVA said.
While Wicker's bill is a simple re-up, ATVA is looking for more. "We urge the committee to not only renew the current law but to fix this broken system that has brought record blackouts and allowed broadcasters to raise fees paid by cable and satellite customers by more than 5,000%. Enough is enough," said Duffy.
“We support renewing STELAR to protect 870,000 of our country’s most rural consumers who are at risk of losing their broadcast channels at the end of this year," said AT&T executive VP of federal relations Tim McKone. "We applaud Chairman Wicker for his leadership on this issue and look forward to working with all Members of Congress for final passage in the remaining weeks of this year.”
“ACA Connects appreciates and applauds Sen. Wicker’s actions to seek an extension of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization Act of 2014 (STELAR), because the worst thing that could happen to television viewers would be the elimination of the FCC’s ‘Good Faith’ rules if STELAR expired," said ACA President Matt Polka. "The Good Faith rules provide protection for consumers that, if eliminated, will result in even higher retransmission consent demands by broadcasters for what they call “Free TV,” in even more broadcaster blackouts, and in even more harmful and costly tying and bundling arrangements."
“We are glad that Sen. Wicker has introduced legislation that will prevent hundreds of thousands of Americans from watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve — and then suddenly losing access to the broadcast stations they rely upon for news, sports, and entertainment once the clock strikes midnight," said Public Knowledge senior policy counsel Jenna Leventoff.