STELAR Expiring Soon to a Satellite Near You | Citizens Against Government Waste

STELAR Expiring Soon to a Satellite Near You

The WasteWatcher

Every five years, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) expires, and every five years Congress scrambles to extend the authorization.  In the past, some have seen the reauthorization as an opportunity to refine and modernize the law.  However, this year there is a renewed effort by the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) to let STELAR die.

Here’s what is at stake.  According to Statistica, DirecTV had 17.9 million subscribers and Dish had 9.56 million subscribers in the second quarter of 2019.  While some of these subscribers use the service as an over-the-top streaming service, more than 870,000 satellite TV subscribers who do not stream the content could lose access to broadcast television if STELAR is not reauthorized.  Among these viewers are long-haul truckers, RV owners, and rural households whose only way to receive broadcast television service is satellite TV.  Rural areas of the country are already at a digital disadvantage, with difficulties in accessing broadband internet and other services due to distance and terrain.  According to the National Grange, “Failure to reauthorize the STELAR Act would create another gap by gambling away rural American’s access to information.”

Several bills to reform or extend STELAR have been introduced and are working their way through House and Senate committees, but with the December 31, 2019 deadline looming, reauthorization of STELAR is taking on some urgency.  Legislation to address the expiration of STELAR includes S. 2789, the Satellite Television Access Reauthorization Act of 2019 (STAR Act); H.R. 5035 as amended, the Television Viewer Protection Act of 2019, which passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee on November 19, 2019; and, H.R. 5140, the Satellite Television Community Protection and Promotion Act of 2019.

On November 19, 2019, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) took to the Senate floor to urge his colleagues to protect rural Americans by passing STELAR.   Highlighting the short time frame to reauthorize this legislation, Sen. Wicker noted, “We have ten days to ensure 870,000 Americans to be able to watch the same programs next year that they are seeing this year.”  It appears that a straight reauthorization will be the eventual outcome for STELAR, as another opportunity for reform will disappear.

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