Senate Commerce Passes Satellite TV Bill

WASHINGTON: The Senate Commerce Committee today passed its version of legislation that directs the carriage of local TV stations on satellite systems. 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.

STELA extends for five years the right for satellite TV providers to carry out-of-market TV signals to household that can’t receive stations in their own markets. Current law, known as SHVERA, expires at the end of this year. This new legislation also replaces language referring to analog signals with references to digital transmissions, and directs the FCC to develop a correlative reception test. It also directs the commission to determine whether the licensing scheme it extends should be scuttled in favor of negotiations between stations and DBS providers.

Several legislators have pushed DBS operators to carry local stations in all 210 TV markets. DirecTV does so in 152 markets; Dish Network, in 182--both as of Oct. 8. They say the remaining markets are too cost-prohibitive to serve. The Commerce version of the bill doesn’t require or provide incentives for local-into-local in all 210 markets, but Committee Chairman John D. Rockefeller (D.-WV) said the issue would be a priority when the legislation is merged with versions from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That mash-up must then be voted on by the full Senate and reconciled with a similarly mashed-up version in the House that has yet to reach the floor.
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(Image byJeremy Fitzhardinge)

More on satellite legislation:
October 20, 2009: “SHVERA Estimated to Cost $11 per Family
A watchdog Web site maintained by the Cato Institute estimated Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act of 2009 will cost taxpayers around $10.96 per family.

October 15, 2009: House Commerce Committee Passes SHVERA
H.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.