STELAR Set to End Dec. 31

WASHINGTON—The final days of STELAR are upon us, as Congress has included provisions into its Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations legislation that will allow for the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization to expire.

The House on approved the bill on Tuesday. The Senate passed the bill on Thursday night, which means that STELAR will sunset when the new year begins.

The appropriations bill, includes what is labeled as Title X (Television Viewer Protection) and Title XI (Eligibility to Receive Signals Under a Distant-Signal Satellite License). These detail a pair of bills approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate that will allow for the sunsetting of STELAR at the end of December, while also creating permanent distant-signal satellite license provisions for specific markets. It also would make permanent “good faith” negotiations requirements during retransmission negotiations.

The part of the bill that would create permanent distant-signal licenses covers RVs, truckers, tailgaters and “short markets” that do not have a full complement of local ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox-affiliated TV stations. However, for satellite operators to qualify for the permanent license, the bill requires that they must deliver local TV signals when possible. Dish has already accomplished this, but DirecTV would have to meet the bill’s May 31, 2020 deadline for 12 “unserved” rural TV markets.

NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith commented on the inclusion of these provisions into the appropriations bill:

“NAB strongly supports key pro-consumer provisions in the appropriations bill released today that address the expiring STELAR bill. Under this legislation, AT&T-DirecTV will be encouraged to finally serve all satellite TV subscribers with their local TV stations. 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.”

AT&T is one of the opponents of letting STELAR sunset, and made its stance clear in a recent blog post.

It is expected that President Trump will approve the appropriations bill.