VAB goes to Washington!

Jay Barton, GM of WCAX-TV and Alex von Lichtenberg, GM of Local 22 & Local 44 joined VAB Executive Director Wendy Mays on a trip to Washington D.C. July 23rd to meet with Representative Peter Welch and Senator Patrick Leahy to advocate against STELA Re-authorization.

Thirty years ago, congress passed the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (aka STELA) to help fledgling satellite companies be competitive with cable. Because the technology did not exist in 1988 for every market to get local news broadcasts, STELA gave subsidies to satellite companies to pay pennies on the dollar for licenses to re-transmit newscasts from major markets. STELA is set to expire on December 31, 2019 and whereas AT&T/DirecTV and Dish Network are billion dollar companies that don’t need subsidies, and whereas local-to-local capabilities are now available to satellite companies in every TV market throughout the United States, STELA is obsolete and should sunset on 12/31/19 as intended. Read NAB’s STELAR issue sheet. But re-authorization of STELA is an open topic of discussion in congress and in particular in the House Energy & Commerce Sub Committee on which Rep. Welch sits as well as in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Senator Leahy presides.

Although STELA Re-authorization will have a negligible effect upon television viewership here in Vermont, re-authorizing this legislation will leave about 500,000 households in 12 underserved markets around the country without local TV news and weather. So the delegation from Vermont, backed by the NAB, traveled to Washington D.C. and in solidarity with broadcasters from around the country and asked Vermont’s congressmen to express to their respective Committee Chairs and Ranking Members the concerns we shared with them about not allowing STELA to be Re-Authorized. We further ask the Congressmen to oppose any efforts to attach unrelated riders or appropriations to STELA.

Both Rep. Welch and Senator Leahy received the VAB delegation well and our discussions with them demonstrate their support for localism in media, as well as the vital role TV & radio play in Vermont communities.

VAB will keep our members updated on any developments as STELA Re-authorization continues to be discussed on Capitol Hill.