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Congress Hears Calls to Renew Satellite-Carriage Law

The federal government’s top copyright official Tuesday called on Congress to extend the current law allowing satellite TV operators to offer broadcast networks superstations based in out-of-town markets when customers can’t receive good signals from their local affiliates.

The law, known as the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, sets the royalties satellite TV providers pay to import distant network signals into local markets for carriage of local broadcast channels and must be renewed before it expires at the end of the year.

"I can think of no good reason to justify … abandoning the satellite carrier license," Mary Beth Peters told the House Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

Renewing the law won’t be easy. Broadcasters and copyright holders like Hollywood and professional sports leagues are at loggerheads with satellite providers over several issues, including rates paid for programming, whether DBS companies should have more leeway to import digital superstations, and the legality of making some DBS customers install a second dish to receive local channels.

Representatives of the three segments called on lawmakers to tweak the law in their favor, but all want it renewed.