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NAB Won't Oppose Some Grandfathering Of Distant Signals

Speaking for the National Association of
Broadcasters, Meredith Broadcasting Group President and NAB TV Board Chairman
Paul Karpowicz plans to tell Senators at a Communications Subcommittee hearing
Wednesday that broadcasters won't oppose letting satellite broadcasters deliver
distant signals to viewers who might not now qualify since the digital

The committee will be hearing from witnesses on the
Satellite TV Modernization Act, the latest name for the bill to reauthorize the
satellite compulsory license that permits the important of distant TV network
affiliate signals into markets that can't get a viewable signal of a local
affiliate of the same network.

"In the spirit of compromise, we will not oppose
satellite carriers retaining their existing lawful distant signal subscribers
who were unable to receive a Grade B analog signal from a local network
station--even though those subscribers may now (post digital transition) receive
a perfectly good digital network signal from that same local network station,"
said Karpowicz, according to a copy of his prepared testimony.

But Karpowicz also said that NAB does not support
allowing the importation of a distant stand-alone digital signal (that had no
analog complement) or a multicast version of a network affliate if viewers can
now get a local digital version.

Broadcasters don't want the reauthorization--which
has to pass by the end of the year of the law sunsets--to become an excuse for
"re-opening a range of well-established retransmission consent

They also don't want the bill to allow satellite
operators and cable operators to import adjacent-market affiliates to address
the so-called split-market issue. That is where a market crosses state lines and
satellite operators want to be able to deliver, say, a North Carolina station to
a North Carolina viewer in a market served by South Carolina

Karpowicz said he understands the concerns of
legislators pushing for that adjacent-market importation--those include giving
constituents access to their local sports teams and cutting down on waste
circulation from political ads.

But he said it was not good public policy, and
unnecessary since stations can and do strike deals to deliver local programming
to adjacent markets, just not the national and syndicated programming that
duplicates an in-market affiliate.

"My point can be illustrated by WHNS, a station
Meredith operates in Greenville, South Carolina," he told the committee in his
testimony. "Thirty-four percent of the households in its Designated Market Area
(DMA) are located in North Carolina and four percent in Georgia. WHNS provides
locally-attuned service to those North Carolina and Georgia communities, just as
it does to the South Carolina communities within its coverage area. The nearest
North Carolina city of license to these North Carolina counties is Charlotte,
which is 95 miles away from Spotsylvania County, N.C. Greenville is only 25 miles

The Senate Judiciary Committee has already approvedthe bill
-- it shares jurisiction over the reauthorization bill--while a House Communications
Subcommittee has passed its own, slightly different, version.

The House version allows Dish network to get back
into the distant-signal business--it has an arms-length deal with a third party
per a court order--in exchange for delivering the local stations in all 210
markets. The Senate version has no such provision.

The two bills will ultimately have to be