Congress and the flawed STELA Legislation

Congress fails to fix STELA Legislation in 2020

Wasted Time and Lost Opportunity in 2020 thanks to Our Congressman

4 December 2020: I submitted an Op-Ed piece to USA Today discussing the flawed STELA legislation that Congress continues to refuse to address. They have apparently declined to publish it. Another win for Congress continuing to put American lives at risk & harm American businesses. Another failure for the America people.

I also sent email to Congressman O'Halleran further documenting why his belief that using the Internet to view local TV livestreams is an unfair and unacceptable alternative to fixing STELA. This belief completely ignores the facts that the Internet solution means that viewers must have reliable and high-speed Broadband service (not necessarily true in rural areas), they must WANT to use the Internet (also not true for many citizens who worry about security), and they would have to pay TWICE for TV reception (once to their satellite TV provider for the benefits of satellite TV reception and second to their Internet Service Provider). Another reason that viewing live local TV video streams on the Internet is NOT a solution is that local business advertising shown during on-air live broadcasts is not shown on the livestream, thereby preventing potential customers from seeing these local ads. So local businesses are still harmed. As an example of this I provided the Congressman with a screen capture taken during a recent Tucson TV station news livestream. No local commercials were shown, but an ad for a car dealer in Riverside, California, was repeatedly shown during commercial breaks. Seeing out-of-state advertising is not very useful to local citizens in southern Arizona who live 30 miles from Tucson. It is even worse than seeing advertising for Phoenix businesses (120 miles away) mandated by the STELA requirement. Not seeing ads for local businesses during livestreams hurts local businesses in both Pinal and Pima counties. Why would anyone in Congress think that using the Internet is a fair and acceptable solution? As with the flaw in STELA, there is no logic in that.

I sent an email to the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) legal team following up on a letter dated 3 August 2020 that I mailed to the NAB. I pointed out that the STELA legislation prohibits some citizens from receiving their nearest TV stations via satellite TV providers, yet it allows cable TV providers to offer those same stations to their customers living in the same area. I asked if the prohibition on receiving the nearest TV stations with their focus on relevant local news, weather, sports, advertising, and emergency information, while allowing them via cable, along with the harm being done to citizens and businesses, could make that aspect of the STELA legislation unconstitutional? Citizens of Pinal County, as well as citizens in other areas of the United States that are similarly impacted by this flaw in STELA, would welcome the support of the National Association of Broadcasters to bring real local TV to them. As I am the Pinal County "point person" on this issue I said that we could best proceed by working together.

7 December 2020: In late November 2020, DirecTV contract talks with KPNX (12News in Phoenix, our "local" non-local NBC affiliate TV station) broke down and on 1 December the station was no longer available to DirecTV subscribers in Arizona. I wonder if DirecTV found out that the station was under serving the STELA required FCC DMA by ignoring southern Pinal County and so is not worth what the station claimed. This points out just how unfair STELA is to everyone. I spoke with a representative from AT&T DirecTV and said that I actually was in support of DirecTV in this contract dispute and provided my reasoning. She said she should forward my justification to the contract negotiators. The representative said they hoped to have this resolved by the end of 2020. Hopefully, DirecTV will also use the information I supplied to lobby the FCC for a "Market Area Modification".

11 December 2020: I mailed letters to NBC News, CBS News, ABC News, and Fox News and requested they support "local TV" by using their network's voice to get Congress to immediately fix the flawed, dangerous, and unfair STELA legislation.

15 December 2020: I received a phone call from a Tucson TV station general manager in response to my efforts to get Congress to enact changes in the FCC Designated Market Area regulation. He supports my efforts and told me two things that were very distressing: 1) STELA was revised in 2019 to "sunset" the ban on local rebroadcast rights for satellite TV providers, and 2) the Pinal County Board of Supervisors must continue with their petition to the FCC to allow for "out-of-market" service to this affected area. Both of these are contrary to information from Congressman O'Halleran's office. Several months ago I had asked the Congressman's staff what actions were taken during the STELA Reauthorization (STELAR) in 2019, to which no response was received. I took that to mean that Congress did nothing. At the April 2020 conference call with the Congressman's staff, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors, and myself, the Congressman's Senior Legislative Assistant recommended that the County suspend its FCC petition efforts. Based on that recommendation from Congress, the Board of Supervisors decided to not continue to use its resources to work on the petition. I have apparently wasted a lot of time and effort by pursuing the wrong approach with our Congressman. I even resigned from the Chairmanship of the IDA Dark Sky Places Committee, a role that was very important to me personally, to more actively pursue what turned out to be the wrong approach. I have expressed my displeasure to the Congressman's staff. They have not responded to refute the information from the TV station manager. I have lost all trust in Congressman O'Halleran and his staff.

I will be working with the newly elected Pinal County Supervisors in January 2021 to complete the "Market Area Modification" petition to the FCC.

Stay tuned for further updates.

STELA fiasco thanks to Congress and the FCC

Main Flawed STELA Legislation page

Copyright ©2020 Michael L. Weasner /