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Client Advisory: FCC Issues Two Notices of Proposed Rulemaking to Implement STELA


The FCC is moving quickly to implement the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA). STELA is the latest law to extend and update the original Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1998, allowing direct to home satellite carriers to deliver the signals of local television stations to subscribers. The Commission has commenced two rulemakings which, because Congress gave the FCC a deadline of November 2010 to wrap up its proceedings and adopt implementing rules, have very short comment periods.

The first proceeding deals with satellite carriers’ ability to import distant, but significantly viewed, television signals into a local station’s television market. The FCC’s proposals could result in an increase in importation of significantly viewed signals by satellite providers. Therefore, stations should familiarize themselves with their rights concerning significantly viewed signals. Comments in this proceeding are due on August 17 and Reply Comments are due on August 27. An in-depth analysis of this proceeding can be found in our Client Advisory.

The second proceeding deals with the method by which the FCC determines whether a subscriber is eligible to receive the imported signal of a distant network-affiliated station. The FCC is examining both its computerized predictive model for determining whether a particular household is “served” by the local station, as well as its methodology for making actual on-site signal strength measurements. Where a satellite subscriber seeks to receive the signal of a distant network-affiliated station, the FCC’s predictive model is used to assess whether the subscriber can receive the local network affiliate over the air. A household that is found to be “served” by the local affiliate is generally not eligible to receive the imported signal of an out of market affiliate of the same network. However, the subscriber can challenge the results of the FCC’s predictive model by seeking an on-site measurement of the local station’s signal.

STELA directs the FCC to update its predictive methodology to account for the completion of the nationwide transition to digital television, as well as to make specific modifications to the definition of “unserved” households. Comments in this proceeding are due on August 24 and Reply Comments are due on September 3. A detailed discussion of the FCC’s proposals in this proceeding can be found in a second Client Advisory released today.