Congress and the flawed STELA Legislation

Congress fails to fix STELA Legislation in 2020

Looking at Legal Options

3 October 2020: I received another communication from Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D) in response to my concerns about the STELA legislation. In part, she said:

As digital news outlets have grown over the last two decades and news markets have consolidated, local newspapers, radio stations, and television broadcasters have experienced significant financial difficulties. According to PEN America, a nonprofit organization focused on the news industry, newspapers have experienced the sharpest declines, losing more than $35 billion in advertising revenue since 2005 and 47 percent of newsroom staff since 2004. In addition, local media outlets have suffered like other businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. Since the start of the pandemic, local newspapers and broadcasters have seen a major decline in advertising revenue and have been forced to lay off employees or permanently close. In May 2020, the National Association of Broadcasters found that some local broadcasters have reported as much as a 90 percent loss in advertising revenues.

Her response then began discussing how Congress was addressing the COVID-19 financial issues. She mentioned the Local News and Emergency Information Act that would expand PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) eligibility to include newspaper publishers with up to 1,000 employees, and radio and television broadcasters with up to $41.5 million in gross receipts. She also noted:

Arizona's local newspapers, radio broadcasters, and television broadcasters have provided emergency alerts and important information to Arizonans during the coronavirus pandemic.

All that she said is valid, but she either totally misunderstands the issue of the STELA legislation that puts lives at risk and harms local businesses, including television broadcasters, or she (or her staff) never bother to fully comprehend communications from her constituents. It seems like they key off certain terms such as "TV", "COVID-19", "harm", etc., and so just do not appreciate the seriousness of the issue. The use of such a tactic by our elected officials is too common.

21 October 2020: I mailed 51 letters to members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce that is responsible for the STELA legislation. I explained the issue to them in case they were not informed of it by the Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (who I had written to in July 2020) or by Arizona Representative Tom O'Halleran (who has personally known of the issue since 2018 and his staff since 2013). I provided them with a perspective on the issue that should resonate with them. I pointed out that for Washington DC residents it would be like being allowed to only view TV stations in Philadelphia (124 miles away). Would these members of Congress tolerate this prohibition by Congress on receiving local TV stations? I doubt that they would. I said that I hoped one or more of them would step up to be the champion to get Congress to immediately fix the dangerous and unfair legislation.

I have also begun looking into pursuing legal options as there is a possibility that parts of the STELA legislation are unconstitutional. The legislation treats customers of cable TV companies differently than customers of satellite TV companies, even those living in the same area.

Phone Calls to Congress, Washington Post Op-Ed

Main Flawed STELA Legislation page

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