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Fifteen-Day Extension Floated For Satellite Bill

Congress this week must either vote on the satellite reauthorization bill, or on another extension. Failing that, lots of satellite subscribers will lose their network-affiliated TV stations come March 1.

According to sources, there was an effort floated Monday (Feb. 22) to secure passage of a 15-day extension to the satellite bill by unanimous consent, which means without a floor vote but also without any objections from even a single legislator. No word on its progress or likelihood.

Feb. 28 is the deadline of the 60-day extension passed late last year as part of a jobs bill that included extensions for various must-pass items that had failed to pass.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) two weeks ago stripped a new version of that jobs bill of a number of those unrelated provisions, including the satellite reauthorization, saying those would have to wait until the more streamlined jobs bill is taken up this week. If that gets voted on Monday, it could break the log jam and allow for the actual satellite bill, rather than a stop-gap extension, to be taken up, although the big debate on a healthcare bill could intercede to make the 15-day extension a more likely outcome.

Reid's office was not available for comment at press time.

The satellite bill, now officially re-christened STELA (the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act), renews satellite operators' blanket license to import distant network-affiliated TV stations to viewers in markets where they can't receive a viewable local version. It also creates an incentive for DISH to deliver local-into-local service, establishes a new timetable for the delivery of high-definition signals of noncommercial stations, a new method for determining who is eligible to receive the signals, and mandates a series of reports on, among other things, whether the blanket license should be phased out.