House Energy & Commerce Committee Schedules SHVURA Mark-Up For Thursday

The House Energy & Commerce Committee is scheduling a mark-up of the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act (SHVURA) on Thursday, Oct. 15, as reported by B&C.

Sources say Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) wants to make some changes in the form of a managers' amendment. The amendment will include the deal between DISH and broadcasters in which the satellite company agrees to deliver local TV station signals to all 210 Nielsen markets in exchange for being allowed back into the distant-signal business, according to a source on the Hill.

A National Association of Broadcasters spokesman says NAB is still on board with that deal. Local-into-local service in all 210 markets would mean a couple of dozen small-market broadcasters would get retransmission payments from satellite for the first time at a time when stations can use every extra dollar.
The House Judiciary Committee already passed a version of the bill that includes that provision, but Judiciary and Energy & Commerce split jurisdiction, with Judiciary handling the copyright issues and Energy & Commerce the portions that implicate the FCC.

According to a memo outlining the markup, the managers' amendment, which is usually agreed to by both sides beforehand and takes the form of a substitute for the original bill, will include "several additional provisions that have resulted from bipartisan discussions following the Subcommittee markup and the Judiciary Committee markup."

The House Judiciary committee version, for example, would allow for the importation of distant signals into so-called short markets that lack one of the network affiliates or a sufficiently strong signal from a nearby affiliate. This would fix the so-called phantom signal issue that has required cable operators to pay for signals they weren't delivering to customers. It would also redefine those eligible for distant network signals so that signals that bleed over from adjacent markets don't disqualify that importation, allow for the in-market distribution of noncommercial TV stations if part of a state network, and update the satellite and cable licenses to reflect the switch to digital.

Senate and House Judiciary and Commerce/Energy & Commerce committee versions of SHVURA must be reconciled and a bill passed by the end of the year or the blanket license allowing satellite TV operators to deliver distant TV network station signals will sunset.

The version that passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee also fixed short markets and included a provision instructing the Copyright Office to produce a study on phasing out the compulsory copyright license for satellite distant network TV stations' signals.

Also on the agenda for the 10 a.m. markup are the Local Community Radio Act, which reduces the separation between low-power and full-power stations, and a bill extending the Public Interoperable Communications Grant Program, which is funded with money from the 700 mHz DTV spectrum auction.

The Calm Act is not on Thursday morning's agenda. It was voted out of the subcommittee last week along with SHVURA, LPFM and interoperability. But at the time, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) said he planned to have more discussions with small cable operators about their concerns over the impact of the bill.

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.