New Bill Would Narrow STELAR’s Reach

Calls on DirecTV to provide signals for local stations to 12 markets within 120 days.
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WASHINGTON—Congress continues to search for a solution to the STELAR debate, with a new bill now circulating in the House that would narrow which viewers would be impacted by STELAR.

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The Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019 was crafted and is being circulated by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The bill would essentially allow for the permanent extension of STELAR—which allows satellite TV providers to retransmit distant TV networks to communities—but only to “short market” communities that are missing one or more of the four network broadcasters (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), and those not fixed locations, like RVs and commercial trucks.

Another part of the bill states that the STELAR license will expire after 120 days for communities that have local network stations and does not make sense to import distant network stations.

However, the bill brings up a condition that directly identifies AT&T’s DirecTV. The bill says that DirecTV needs to guarantee that within 120 days it will begin providing local TV signals in the 12 TV markets for Alpena, Mich.; Bowling Green, Ky.; Casper-Riverton, Wyo.; Cheyenne, Wyo./Scottsbluff, Neb.; Grand Junction, Colo.; Helena, Mont.; North Platte, Neb.; Ottumwa, Iowa/Kirksville, Mo.; Presque Isle, Maine; San Angelo, Texas; Victoria, Texas; and Glendive, Mont.

The STELAR license in its current form is set to expire at the end of 2019.

Most broadcasters want to see STELAR expire, including the National Association of Broadcasters. But the association applauded the bill’s requirement that viewers in the 12 markets listed above will be protected.

“While NAB continues to believe STELAR’s reauthorization is unnecessary, we support Chairman Nadler’s thoughtful narrowly-tailored approach that benefits viewers by better ensuring satellite carriage of their local broadcast stations,” said NAB CEO and President Gordon Smith. “We’re particularly pleased that Chairman Nadler’s bill rights a wrong inflicted upon tens of thousands of DirecTV viewers in 12 rural markets who have been denied access to local TV programming for years.

“We’re optimistic that under the Nadler bill, DirecTV will finally fulfill its decade-old pledge to carry local television stations to those viewers, rather than piping in programming from New York City or Los Angeles,” Smith added. “NAB looks forward to working with Chairman Nadler, ranking member Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and other House Judiciary Committee members as the bill is considered this week.”

NAB has also released a breakdown of the bill, section by section.