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Satellite Bill Gets 30-Day Extension

WASHINGTON: The law governing the carriage of broadcast signals by satellite TV operators was extended through April last week. President Barack Obama signed the temporary authority for S. 3186, the “Satellite Television Extension Act of 2010,” introduced by Sen. John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) last Thursday. It passed quickly through the House and Senate without amendment or roll call vote. This extension is the third for the satellite carriage law, which would have expired Dec. 31, 2009 if not for an extension to the end of February, then a second to March 28.

Meanwhile, a bill to reauthorize the carriage law for 10 years--S. 3191--passed in the Senate before lawmakers left for Easter break.

The law dictates parameters of retransmitting broadcast TV signals by satellite providers into markets other than those served by the broadcaster, or “distant signals.” Distant signal legislation is a sticky wicket in part because of the way reception is measured to determine eligibility.

S. 3191 resembles the five-year version of the bill passed by the Senate Commerce Committee last November, as well as a five-year version pending in the House. Like those, the 10-year bill also calls for updated language on reception tests applicable to digital television. It also directs the FCC to determine how to phase out distant-signal law in favor of market-based negotiations, and requires direct broadcast satellite operators to carry local broadcast signals in all 210 U.S. designated market areas. Currently, DirecTV is north of 150; Dish is north of 180.

November 19, 2009: “Senate Commerce Passes Satellite TV Bill
What is now known as STELA, for the “Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act,” passed the committee in a voice vote on a package of bills that included bones for low-power FM radio stations, sharks, the Chesapeake Bay and public transportation.

October 15, 2009:House Commerce Committee Passes SHVERAH.R. 2994 included a directive for determining digital-signal eligibility based on new digital reception methodology.

October 8, 2009:Broadcasters Fight SHVERA Modifications
Until a new digital metric is determined, Karpowicz suggested grandfathering in distant signals allowed by the previous determination.

July 15, 2009: “Congressman Bows Bill to Import TV Signals
Arkansas Democrat Mike Ross is pushing legislation to overturn the current rules governing which broadcast signals satellite and cable operators can carry.

June 25, 2009: “SHVERA Passes House Subcommittee
The only changes to the legislation as it was written in 2004 were the date and the provision to measure digital signal coverage using the Longley-Rice model employed by the FCC.

June 16, 2009: “Broadcasters Battle for Signal Protection
The broadcast lobby is playing the localism card in a big way as Congress considers the renewal of the SHVERA.

May 8, 2009: “ACA Says Retrans is Squeezing Too Hard
The cable industry has not yet rolled over on retransmission consent, whether or not it comes up in pending satellite copyright legislation.

March 30, 2009: “Network Affiliates Urge Lawmakers to Preserve Distant-Signal Limits
CBS and NBC are urging key lawmakers to maintain restrictions on what TV stations cable and satellite operators can carry in a given market.