Skip to main content

Sources: McCaskill To Stand Down From Proposed DirecTV Carriage Mandate

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is expected to stand down from her proposed amendment mandating both EchoStar and DirecTV deliver local TV station signals to all 210 Nielsen markets within three years, according to sources.

Instead, she is expected to substitute an amendment that calls for a study of delivering local TV station signals in those markets.

That word comes as the Senate Commerce Committee prepares Thursday to mark up STELA, the Satellite Television Extension and Reauthorization Act.

That bill reauthorizes satellite operators' license to deliver the signals of distant network TV station affiliates to viewers who can't receive a sufficiently strong signal from in-market affiliates.

DirecTV objected strongly to the amendment, a draft of which was circulating around Washington Tuesday. A house version of the bill includes a voluntary deal, struck by EchoStar and broadcaters, to deliver local TV station signals to all 210 markets.

Agreeing to a study is frequently a way of preserving the issue while preventing an amendment that could be an obstacle to passage.

If the bill does not pass by the end of the year, the license expires. It must still be reconciled with a version from the Senate Judiciary Committee, that bill voted by the full Senate, then that bill reconciled with ones from the House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary committees that have yet to be voted on in the full House.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee version includes both the 210-market provision and an amendment that would seem to negate that by speeding satellite carriage of noncommercial stations, something EchoStar says it can't do if it is also to deliver 210 markets on the FCC's timetable. The House version also has a provision dealing with so-
called short markets--markets without a full complement of network affiliates. All those issues will have to be reconciled ASAP.

A fall-back position would be to pass a one-year extension and put off the heavy lifting.