Satellite License Extended To May 31

Congress late Thursday extended the satellite license yet again, this time to May 31.

The extra tame came as the Senate and House passed, and the president late Thursday signed, H.R. 4851, the "Continuing Extension Act of 2010."

That legislation included yet another extension of the license that allows satellite operators to deliver distant network TV station signals to subs who can't receive a comparable local signal.

For the past several months, the extension has been wedded to extensions of jobless and medical benefits, which like the satellite license would have expired at the end of last year without some congressional action.

Congress failed to agree on a five-year renewal of the satellite license, but currently has five-year and 10-year versions of a full authorization in the hopper.

The full reauthorization will update the law to reflect the transition to digital, since the definition of signals and coverage referred to analog, as well as allowing Dish Network back into the distant signal business in exchange for delivering local TV station signals to customers in the smallest markets. There they have been heretofore unavailable.

The bill also resolves the so-called phantom signal issue for cable operators, who will no longer have to pay a fee based on viewers who aren't getting 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.