Congress extends law authorizing satellite retransmission of TV signals

Congress last week voted to extend until the end of 2014 the law authorizing satellite TV companies, like DISH Network and DIRECTV, to retransmit local broadcast stations to consumers.

The House of Representative approved the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) legislation May 12. Five days before, the Senate unanimously approved the legislation. The existing law authorizing retransmission expires May 31.

The legislation “modernizes and extends” statutory copyright licenses permitting satellite TV companies to retransmit the signals of TV broadcasters, according to a press statement from Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a sponsor of the Senate version of the bill.

The legislation also adjusts existing law to open up carriage of local stations from outside markets in areas of the country where the programming of an individual broadcast network or networks is not available. A news report on WSHV’s website quotes Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) as saying a provision of the new law helped amend existing federal law to make clear that viewers in TV markets, such as Harrisonburg, VA, may have access to all four broadcast networks via satellite — even if that means importing distant market channels of networks that don’t have a local station in the Harrisonburg market.

DISH Network welcomed passage of the legislation in a press statement. STELA clears “the way for DISH Network to become the first pay-TV provider to make local broadcast stations available in every television market in the United States," it said.

Congress first passed the Satellite Home Viewer Act in 1988, and it was last reauthorized in 2004.