SHVERA Bill Stays Streamlined

Passes unanimously in House Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee

The SHVERA reauthorization bill (HR 2994) passed unanimously in the House Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee Thursday with essentially no entangling amendments. A full committee markup will come later in the summer.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), chairman of the House Communications Committee, said Thursday that broadcasters, satellite operators and other stakeholders are close to a deal, perhaps within days, to provide local-into-local service in all 210 markets.

Boucher said at a markup of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA) that he expected that agreement to be struck soon, certainly before the full Energy & Commerce Committee markup later this summer.

The bill remained straightforward, with no amendment offered by Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark), who has for several years been pushing a bill that would allow cable and satellite operators to import adjacent-market signals.

It is looking less likely that fixing so-called split markets by importing adjacent signals to markets that straddle state lines will be in the bill. Though Boucher said he was willing to talk about it and hoped for a resolution, he did not talk about it in his opening statement, and ranking member Cliff Stearns (R-FL) said that he "agree[d] with leaving it out of the bill at this time."

Boucher said he expected that the short-market issue will be resolved in the final bill. That is delivering adjacent-market network signals to markets that lack one or more network affiliates.

Rep. Marsh Blackburn (R-TN) introduced and then withdrew an amendment that would have tried to solve the short-market issue, saying it was a public safety problem. She cited tornados in her state and one Tennessee market where the satellite carrier did not deliver local TV stations because of the economics of that short-market status. She agreed to withdraw after Boucher assured her he was confident some solution could be worked out in the final bill.

In addition, Boucher pointed out, and Blackburn conceded, that the issue would have to be addressed in the Judiciary Committee, which shares jurisdiction on the bill.

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), ranking Energy & Commerce Committee member said he was glad it was going to be a "boring" SHVERA reauthorization hearing rather than a contentious one on the failure of the DTV transition. His point being that the transition had been a success and "nothing happened."

"We think this is going to be a pretty straightforward reauthorization," said Barton.

Almost all the members of the subcommittee waived their opening statements, a sign that the hearing was going to be straightforward and swift. It was, taking only a little more than a half hour, with none but the managers amendment introduced.

Boucher introduced a manager's amendment with only a couple of changes, one preserving the FCC's Longley-Rice signal propagation , model for determining signal strength, and the other reinserting a provision that requires that testing for reception of a digital signal for the purposes of distant signal reception will continue to be based on a stationary, rooftop antenna.

Boucher said that decision to continue to use the rooftop antenna is subject to discussion. That came after Stearns said he was concerned about using that rooftop antenna standard given that many people don't have them, a point made by reception issues following the digital transition.

Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA), who has been pushing to fix the split-market issue, had an amendment but agreed not to introduce it on Boucher's pledge to continue to talk about it. Boucher said he would very much like to see it resolved and would be happy to continue discussions.

The deal amendment would have allowed satellite operators and broadcasters to negotiate for adjacent-market carriage. The amendment would be confined to satellite, though Deal said he thought for parity's sake it should apply to cable as well, so that it did not give satellite a competitive advantage.