House Judiciary Committee Circulating Draft of SHVERA

The House Judiciary Committee has circulated a draft of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act that has a little something for everyone, including allowing Dish Network back into the distant network signal business.

The act reauthorizes the blanket copyright license that allows satellite carriers to deliver distant network signals to viewers who can't get a viewable signal from their local affiliate.

But according to a copy of the draft, which a source said was being circulated by committee chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.), it would include a phase-out of that compulsory license for broadcasters who could show they controlled the rights to all their programming, essentially allowing them to opt out of the license and negotiate individually with satellite carriers.

That is something some broadcasters have been pushing hard for. The Copyright Office has recommended phasing out the compulsory license.

The bill also addresses the short market issue, but in a way that disallows network attempts to resolve the issue without legislation.

Short markets are ones that lack one or more network affiliates. ABC, for example, has struck secondary affiliation deals in some of the short markets so that they can carry ABC programming on a digital multicast channel. But the bill would allow satellite companies to still import an ABC signal in the market. "Multicast affiliations don't count as serving the market," said one frustrated broadcast exec.

The bill would allow Dish network back into the distant signal business once it has delivered local TV station signals into all 210 local markets. It is under an injunction not to do so and currently in an arms-length agreement with National Programming Service, which delivers those distant signals to Dish subs.

And for those who have been following the creation process of the SHVERA name, which began as SHVA (Satellite Home Viewers Act), then SHVIA (Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act) and most recently SHVERA (Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act), the bill would replace that with a new name and alphabet soup of initials, (SHVDTA) the Satellite Home Viewer Digital Television Act of 2009.

“We commend House Judiciary for a very thoughtful discussion draft that addresses multiple issues," said Dish Network in a statement. "[It] puts competitors on a level playing field and takes into consideration the needs of consumers.”

SHVERA must be reauthorized by year's end if the compulsory license is to be prevented from sunsetting. The Judiciary draft will be marked up before the August recess, said a source.

The bill must be reconciled with a House Commerce Committee version that has already been marked up in that committee. The two committees split jurisdiction, with Judiciary focusing more on the copyright issues, like setting rates and the carve-out for broadcasters who can secure their own single-source license for their programming.

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.