Congress and the flawed STELA Legislation

Congress fails to fix STELA Legislation in 2020

I am proved right - Lives are being put at risk

In January 2020 the Pinal County Board of Supervisors FCC DMA "Market Area Modification" petition effort was reinvigorated. I was asked to contact the managers of the Tucson and Phoenix TV stations to discuss the issue with them and get their perspective on a Market Area Modification for southern Pinal County. I spoke with many station managers in both cities and the President and CEO of the Arizona Broadcasters Association. In general the Tucson managers supported the Modification and the Phoenix managers understandably opposed it. The only concern of some in Tucson was if their station was part of a larger corporation that also had a station in Phoenix. The Arizona Broadcasters Association, while it could not support one Market Area over another, understood the concern and would do what they could to support all TV stations in Arizona.

In February 2020 I wrote to President Donald Trump and requested that he issue an Executive Order to implement an URGENT DMA WAIVER. Nothing happened.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Citizens in southern Pinal County need COVID-19 information for southern Arizona that is provided by the Tucson TV stations, not the central and northern Arizona information provided by the Phoenix TV stations. Yet, the STELA legislation prohibits receiving this critical local information and obviously puts lives at risk.

On 2 April 2020 I filed another formal complaint with the FCC, citing the urgency of action due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I had become the FCC DMA "point person" for Pinal County, I participated in a conference call on 23 April 2020 initiated by Congressman O'Halleran's Senior Legislative Assistant as a result of pandemic's impact on the issue. Included on the call were Congressman O'Halleran's Senior Legislative Assistant, a Pinal County Supervisor, and others to discuss the FCC DMA legislation. Everyone on the call agreed that the DMA regulation is illogical and flawed. I stated that Congress created the problem years ago and that Congress needed to fix the legislation immediately. Based on what is needed to enact a change in the legislation, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors stopped further FCC DMA "Market Area Modification" petition work pending Congressional action.

As a follow-up to the 23 April conference call, on 26 May 2020 Congressman O'Halleran's office reported that there is "a statutory hurdle the Commission would have to consider in any market modification request for Pinal County." This "statutory hurdle" created by Congress is impeding any Congressional action on the issue.

Then on 5 June 2020 the Bighorn Fire began in the Catalina Mountains between Tucson and Oracle, posing a serious threat to southern Pinal County residents when it blew up on 17 June 2020.

The Fire, which ultimately burned 119,978 acres and was finally fully contained on 23 July, was a dramatic demonstration of how the STELA legislation puts lives at risk. On 17 June I emailed Congressman O'Halleran's staff this photograph taken from our home in Oracle showing the massive smoke plume from the fire.


On 18 June I emailed this photograph of the fire, which approached to within about 3 miles, as seen at night from our home in Oracle.


I said that my wife and I had just finished preparing to evacuate per the SET order that was issued. Some areas in Oracle were evacuated on 18 June. Due to the nearness of the fire to Tucson and its impacts to residents and businesses in Pima County and southern Pinal County, the Tucson TV stations covered the fire, while the Phoenix TV stations would only infrequently mention it. After my communications in mid-June, Washington went silent and no longer responded to my emails.

19 June 2020: I contacted the office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and requested that he contact Congressman O'Halleran to express his strong displeasure at the lack of Congressional action since being notified in 2013 of the risks and harm being done to citizens of Arizona. I said he should get a commitment from Congressman O'Halleran that no options would be overlooked to enact an immediate DMA fix for southern Pinal County for implementation within 60 days. After repeated requests to the Governor's office I received no update to date.

During the day on 19 June there were several fire suppression air tankers flying over our house. That night the flames were extensive.


COVID-19 pandemic and Bighorn Fire crises are not serious enough for the Government to act

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