SHVERA Draft Bill Ties Local-Into-Local Service To Short-Market Fix

A house Judiciary Committee draft of a SHVERA bill (now named the
Satellite Home Viewer Digital Television Act) ties local-into-local
service to all 210 DMAs to a short-market fix and does not create an
opt-out of the compulsory license for stations with single-source

A new draft of the House version of the bill
reauthorizing satellite operators' compulsory license to deliver
distant network signals still contains language that would allow Dish
Network back into the distant-signal business in exchange for
delivering local TV station signals in all 210 Nielsen markiets,
according to a copy obtained by Multichannel News. There are
still between two and three-dozen small markets where satellite
operators don't deliver local TV station signals because the markets
are too small to make it cost-efficient.

But unlike a Judiciary
draft back in mid-summer, the new draft makes the waiver temporary,
though renewable, and grants it for the delivery of distant signals
into so-called short markets. It also puts the courts, not the
Copyright office, in charge of monitoring compliance with the
210-market delivery trigger for the waiver.

The new draft also no
longer contains a provision that would allow stations to opt out of the
compulsory license if they secured a single-source license for all the
programming on their air.

According to a draft of the bill, which
is being marked up in the Judiciary Committee Wednesday (Sept. 16), a
satellite carrier under a court injunction from delivering distant
network signals --as is Dish-- would qualify for a waiver from that
court injunction to allow it to deliver those distant signals to
so-called short markets. Those are the ones that lack at least one of
the four major network affiliates.

Currently, Dish must keep an
arm's-length relationship to its distant-signal distributor, NPS, after
a court concluded the direct-broadcast satellite firm was having too
much trouble correctly identifying who should and shouldn't be able to
get the distant signals.

But in the version of the bill being
circulated Monday --a draft was also circulated in mid-July-- the
waiver from the injunction would only be temporary--120 days--and would
have to be renewed by the court.

To qualify for the waiver, a
carrier would have to be delivering local signals to all 210 markets.
If the court found that a waiver recipient --that would most likely be
Dish-- willfully failed to serve all markets, it could be fined
$250,000 and lose the waiver.

Another difference from the July
draft is that in that version, the Register of Copyrights would write
the rules and revoke the waiver if the satellite operator did not
deliver the 210 markets.

Local into local would be defined as a
"good quality" signal to at least 90% of the households in the DMA, as
it was in the first draft.

Short markets was another issue
Communications Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D. Va.) hoped to fix
in the bill, which must pass by the end of the year or the compulsory
license will sunset.That would be okay with some broadcasters, who
continue to push for the option to forego the license and negotiate
carriage independently, saying that is preferable to the government
intruding into what should be a free-market negotiation.

In that
scenario, which was included in the July draft, if a station could line
up all the rights to its programming, it could avoid paying the license
and negotiate with cable and satellite operators for carriage, as cable
networks do. A station could still opt for the blanket license, but it
could also opt out.

The Judiciary version must still be
reconciled with the House Energy & Commerce Committee version,
which passed out of the Communications subcommittee without short-market or local-into-local "fixes,"
though Boucher was confident a local-into-local agreement between
satellite carriers and stations could be worked out, and was hopeful
short markets could also be addressed.

Energy & Commerce and Judiciary share jurisdiction over reauthorizing the license.

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.