Amendments for Satellite Bill Teed Up

With the baseline STAVRA satellite compulsory license reauthorization bill text now out for comment and perusing, ammendments are being collected to try to steer it in one direction of another, including ones sure to raise the ire of cable operators.

Although cable ops were looking for more retrans reforms out of the bill, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and American Television Alliance Monday were both counting that baseline bill a victory and pushing for passage as is. The National Association of Broadcasters liked the direction, too, but still had some issues.

At press time Monday, a number of amendments were being teed up for a Wednesday markup according top copies obtained from sources, including a bunch that would make the bill even more broadcast friendly — or cable-unfriendly — mostly addressing particular points of interest and contention of their sponsors.

Among those amendments:

• An amendment attributed to Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would require the FCC to implement a "platform-neutral" system of insuring the competitive availability of competitive navigation devices before the ban on integrated set-tops can be eliminated. (The current bill has no such built-in delay in eliminating the ban.)

• One attributed to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) would grandfather any joint sales agreement struck before the FCC voted March 31 to make some TV JSA's attributable as ownership interest.

• One attributed to Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who has been investigating cable MVPD bills and customer service practices, that would make cable customer service promises enforceable FCC rules, require the FCC to come up with enforceable customer service requirements for satellite and more.

• A pair of amendments from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) would instruct the FCC to study the impact of sports rights fees on distribution and the migration of sports from free to pay TV.

• An amendment from Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) would change the five-year compulsory license renewal to two years.

• An amendment from Sen. Joseph Heller (R.-Nev.) would mandate various FCC process reforms.

• The fact that the amendments are circulating does not mean they will be adopted, or that some will not be withdrawn after they have made the point that the issue important to the sponsor.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.