Bill passes to allow nearly 1.5 million to watch local TV

In the United States Senate, it was proven once again last week that one member could cause havoc. It happened when retiring Kentucky Republican Jim Bunning engaged in a one-man blockade of Small Business Administration stimulus provisions. Tied to that legislation was not only jobless and Medicare benefits, but also an extension that allowed people in rural areas to watch their local TV stations via satellite.

The loss of the satellite provision was to begin on Monday, March 1, but Bunning ended his filibuster on Tuesday. With 21 Republicans behind the bill, the vote tally was 78 to 19, and the legislation was signed into law by President Obama late Tuesday.

Members of Congress had called on DISH and DIRECTV, the satellite operators, to continue to carry distant broadcast signals to their customers even after their licenses expired. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, and ranking member Jeff Sessions, R-AL, sent a letter to the companies asking them to “temporarily maintain the status quo in such an event in order to avoid disrupting the provision of ‘lifeline’ network programming to hundreds of thousands of Americans.”

House Judiciary chairman John Conyers, D-MI, and ranking member Lamar Smith, R-TX, also signed onto the letter.

The DISH and DIRECTV licenses are to be extended until March 28 to allow more time for a long-term reauthorization to make it through Congress. That reauthorization was part of a previous version of the jobs bill that ended up being killed.