DALLAS—AT&T is pushing for the STELAR rules to get some extra time before they lapse because of the current coronavirus pandemic, citing that people could lose access to critical information when STELAR licenses expire on June 1. It requests that deadline be extended until Jan. 1, 2021.
AT&T shared this in a letter to Congress, a copy of which was obtained by TVT’s sister publication Multichannel News.
STELAR (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization) allowed satellite operators to import distant network TV signals to viewers that did not have them. Those signals were available at a blanket license rate that did not have to be negotiated on with TV stations. Congress did not renew STELAR last year, bringing an end to this practice and requiring satellite operators to negotiate with stations.
AT&T said that it has been negotiating on carriage license with networks, but have not reached agreements that would preserve all the current programming that some of its subscribers receive.
DirecTV subscribers will start being notified this week that they will lose access to network channels on June 1, AT&T said in its letter. The company says that it will impact tens of thousands of subscribers who live either in rural markets that are missing a local network channel or commercial truckers and RVs. “These unique subscribers presently have no other way to obtain this network programming except through distant signals.”
“Unfortunately, this means disrupting these customers’ service and access to important news and entertainment during this time of emergency,” AT&T said.
AT&T also said it would accept a temporary extension from networks to continue to provide key programming to subscribers, but that has not yet occurred.
Congress did create a way for a permanent license that covers these markets, but DirecTV would have to deliver local TV signals to the 12 unserved rural markets.
The copy of the full letter is available on Multichannel News.
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