Satellite Bill Extension Said To Be On Table In House

According to several sources, Congress may punt on reauthorizing the satellite distant signal license before Dec 31, instead passing a 60-day (some say 90) stop-gap extension.

The problem is in the Senate, where a provision allowing DISH network back into the distant signal business in exchange for delivering local signals to all 210 markets is said to have caused at least one senator to put a hold on the Senate version of the bill.

Both a 60-day extension and the full bill including DISH provision are ready to be teed up for a House vote tomorrow, but legislators there are said not to want to pass the full version if it is going to be controversial, which it would be, given the hold on the Senate bill.

That has some broadcasters concerned that the House will opt for the extension rather than the 5-year renewal, and that the Senate will agree to that. One or the other has to happen or the license for satellite operators to deliver distant network TV station signals expires at the end of the year.

One thing that broadcasters may be concerned about is that the bill clarifies language relating to the switch to digital TV and what households qualify to receive the imported distant signals. The current standard is based on analog, not digital coverage.

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.