The NAB’s STELAR Death Wish


“Congress never intended for satellite TV legislation that permits ‘unserved homes’ to import distant network TV signals to live in perpetuity,” the NAB argues.

That language paints a clear picture of how broadcast media’s chief Capitol Hill lobbying group feels about the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act.

The NAB wants it to die.

In a two-page PDF under the banner “Narrow Satellite Legislation Should Expire as Congress Intended,” the NAB paid homage to the Congressional Research Service’s cheat-sheet by preparing an advocacy document it is now circulating among House and Senate Member offices.

“The time for letting this unnecessary legislation expire is now,” the NAB says of STELAR, which is set to disappear in 2019 unless Congress renews it.

The NAB “strongly contends” that there is no justification for Congress to renew this bill.

That said, the NAB is ready to put up a fight against “the multi-billion dollar pay TV lobby” to urge another five-year reauthorization of STELAR.

The NAB did not note if it is equally a “multi-billion dollar” lobby. According to the Center for Responsive Politics’, the NAB’s total lobbying expenditures are off substantially from an all-time high of $18.44 million in 2014.

Thus far in 2018, lobbying expenditures total $7.47 million (including $10,000 for the Maryland-D.C.-Delaware subsidiary); some $15.46 million in lobbying expenditures was seen from the NAB in 2015.

Defending its point of view, NAB says the pay TV lobby’s arguments “are wholly without merit” given the following:

  • In all 210 TV markets across America, DBS provider DISH Network now provides carriage of “local-into-local” broadcast programming offered by all affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Univision, Telemundo and other networks that service the market
  • In “nearly” all 210 TV markets, AT&T-owned DirecTV also provides “local-into-local” broadcast programming from affiliated TV stations
  • TV homes now “unserved” by local television stations have dropped dramatically.

According to NAB data, ” no more than 500,000 U.S. households are receiving ‘imported’ broadcast programming from an ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox affiliate.”

As the NAB sees it, these 500,000 homes can be better served through private business negotiations between satellite companies and local broadcasters, “ensuring that the programming be delivered from local TV affiliates, rather than a New York City or Los Angeles-based TV station.”

Here’s a bit of background on how a New York City-based station could be viewed in a far-flung area with no broadcast signal, outside of the New York DMA.

In the 1990s, the then-new DBS companies were given what the NAB calls “a significantly discounted” compulsory copyright license that allowed them to better compete with MVPDs, which the NAB calls “big cable monopolies.”

Under the license as originally conceived, a satellite company could import an out-of-market network TV station signal, typically from a major city, into a local television market where a viewer could not receive the local broadcast station over-the-air.

Why? As the NAB explains, at the time the license was created, the technology did
not exist to enable satellite carriage of local broadcast channels in most markets. As such, importing an out-of-market worked better.

In 2019, technology has made it possible for nearly every local station to “get on the bird,” per se.

“No technological impediment exists to providing satellite viewers with their local broadcast station rather than an out-of-market substitute,” the NAB says. “In fact, DISH is not only providing this service in all 210 DMAs today but has been for nearly a decade.”

In short, the NAB opines, viewers will benefit as they will be able to receive their local station.

Of course, broadcasters’ benefit is just as important, if not greater, as it ensures advertisers that their reach is wide and market-wide.

To read the entire two-page advocacy note being distributed on Capitol Hill by the NAB, click here.