Michelle Zabriskie 01

STELAR (The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization), should be allowed to expire at the end of 2019 - the date that Congress intentionally chose for this temporary law to sunset.

STELAR was in-acted to help the then-struggling nascent, satellite companies (AT&T-DIRECT TV and DISH). News Flash: they are no longer the struggling entities it was designed to help 30 years ago. They are both multi-billion dollar companies no longer needing a competitive lift.  

Thirty years ago things were much different, millions of Americans unable to receive their local broadcast stations over the air, from cable or from satellite. So on a temporary basis, Congress allowed the satellite companies to serve those households with a broadcast station operating outside of the local community, typically from a major city, so viewers could receive their favorite network programming. The media landscape has fundamentally changed over the past three decades. Technology has eliminated the need to import out-of-market station signals to consumers.  Now easily and economically satellite companies can and should deliver local TV stations to all 210 television markets. Further, there are a dozen markets around the country, including Utah, where one satellite company has chosen to deny local viewers their local programming altogether. 

AT&T-Direct TV, is one of the top 5 media companies in the world — with all the leverage in the retransmission negotiation. AT&T’s trend with their retransmission agreement negotiations – blackout of the local stations/companies seeking a renewal agreement and then spew misinformation and blame the broadcaster.

Utahns, including rural Utahns, depend on their local TV channels to provide them with the news they can use: that covers state politics, business and community happenings and so much more.  Additionally, they rely on these same local Utah broadcasters to provide them with breaking news and alerts to help keep them safe and alert.  In short, Utahns depend on their local Utah TV to deliver relevant and vital information including sports, news and entertainment.

The time has come to stop subsidizing billion-dollar satellite telecom giants and to instead protect and provide viewers with the local news, weather and emergency information they want and need. Viewers will benefit from eliminating this outdated law, ensuring they receive the local content most relevant to them. The non-partisan U.S. Copyright Office recently recommended to Congress letting STELAR expire. 

The Utah Broadcasters Association and members oppose the reauthorization of STELAR, it has far exceeded its purpose.  Let the license expire and the marketplace set the terms. Utahns are better served when they have full access to their Local Utah TV Broadcast Stations. 

Michelle Zabriskie is the President and CEO of the Utah Broadcasters Association.