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House Extends Satellite License for 60 Days

The House has punted on the satellite bill until January. A
60-day extension of the satellite distant signal license was included in the
Department of Defense reauthorization bill that passed Dec. 16 in the House
(the vote was 395-34).

The license allows satellite operators to deliver distant
network affiliated TV station signals to viewers who cannot get a viewable
signal of their local affiliate. It would have expired Dec. 31 without the
extension after a reauthorization bill failed to gain consensus.

That gives legislators until March 1 to come up with a standalone
bill, if the Senate follows suit and passes the Defense bill. It is on the
calendar for Dec. 17.

That also means the cable industry will have to wait until
then to get relief from paying a copyright fee for so-called phantom signals
that their customers don't receive. That had been fixed in the standalone House
bill and Senate versions.

The standalone bill was blocked in the Senate, according to
sources, by at least one senator unhappy with the deal letting DISH back into
the distant-network signal business in exchange for delivering local TV
stations in all 210 markets.

The House is now in recess until Jan. 12, with the Senate trying
to wrap up its legislative session as well.