STELAR Renewal Proposed With New STAR Act

WASHINGTON—Choosing to go with a slight rebranding, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) has introduced a new bill that would serve as a renewal of the STELAR Act called the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act, or STAR Act.

The new bill is essentially the same as STELAR, providing a compulsory license that allows satellite operators to import distant network affiliated TV station signals to markets that lack them, with supporters of the act saying it will provide increased access to key content like news, sports and more at fair and competitive pricing. The STAR Act would extend the law from its current expiration date of 2019 to 2024, and continue the requirement that TV stations and MVPDs negotiate in good faith.

The STELAR reauthorization has been a contentious debate in recent months, with most broadcasters wanting the bill to expire while cable and satellite operators sought its renewal.

“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 Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at Public Knowledge.

“While we had advocated for a permanent reauthorization, Sen. Wicker’s proposed five-year reauthorization will protect consumers in the short term and ensure that this issue is revisited again. At that time, if not before, Congress should consider more fundamental changes to video marketplace rules to better align the interests of creators, distributors and viewers.”

The American Television Alliance echoed Public Knowledge’s support for the bill, with Trent Duffy, spokesman for ATVA, adding: “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.”

The bill is expected to be marked up next week.