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NAB: Congress Should Consider Expiration of Distant-Signal License

Broadcasters are looking for a narrow reauthorization of the
satellite distant signal compulsory license -- or perhaps no reauthorization at

The National Association of Broadcasters plans to tell
Congress that the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and
Localism Act should not be used to revise retrans or "delving into
extraneous issues that undermine localism," but that perhaps it should
consider letting the distant-signal license sunset.

That is according to the prepared testimony from NAB exec
Jane Mago for the Feb. 13 House Communications Subcommittee on reauthorizing
the satellite compulsory license.

That license allows satellite carriers to retransmit distant
affiliated TV station signals into markets that cannot receive a local affiliate
of the same network. Satellite operators do not have to negotiate for that
carriage, and they can import nearby significantly viewed stations as well as
distant ones. The license expires every five years, unless renewed, and is
scheduled to expire at the end of 2014.

"While originally adopted to provide network
programming to the large number of satellite viewers unable to receive it from
their local station, today more than 98% of viewers have the option of viewing
network programming from their local affiliate," said NAB.

Whatever the decision, says NAB, localism should be the
focus. "The starting point for considering this legislation must be
localism - the bedrock principle rooted in the Communications Act of 1934 that
has guided communications and related copyright policy for decades," said
Jane Mago. "Congress should continue to rebuff the efforts of the satellite and
cable industries to persuade the government to intervene in free-market
retransmission negotiations."

Mago suggests that the local-into-local compulsory license
is the better way to handle local station carriage -- that is the requirement
that if a satellite carrier offers any local TV station in a market he must
offer all, essentially a must-carry provision similar to that for cable.

One issue that will almost certainly surface in the
reauthorization process is the FCC's proposed changes to the Longley-Rice model
of calculatingTV station coverage areas.