Some broadcasters are said not to be happy with a provision
in the just-passed house version of the satellite compulsory license
re-authorization bill that would allow satellite operators to import network
affiliate signals that would duplicate those being delivered via multicast.
Certainly, a bipartisan group of legislators have a big bone
to pick with it.
The bill, which passed overwhelmingly Thursday, would define
households as "unserved" even if they received a multicast version of
the same network programming.
Some networks have struck deals in so-called short
markets--ones where they lack an affiliate--to use a multicast channel to
create a local market presence for their network signals.
The National Association of Broadcasters reacted to the
bill's passage with an appreciation for the hard work involved, but with the
suggestion the bill needed some more work. "NAB appreciates the dedication
of Chairmen [John] Conyers and [Henry] Waxman and Ranking Members [Joe] Barton
and [Lamar] Smith on an issue of critical importance to broadcast television's future,"
said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, but he added: "As the process moves
forwards, NAB looks forward to our continued work with both chambers of
Congress to ensure that final legislation preserves the enduring value of free
and local broadcast TV."
Less circumspect were a group of 14 legislators (seven
Republicans, seven Democrats) who Thursday sent a letter to Conyers and Waxman
saying they were troubled by the extension of the definition of unserved to
include multicast signals.
They argue that the bill enables DBS companies "to
impede and undermine multicast network affiliates." Including multicast in the definition of
unserved will end after three years, but the legislators say that those three
years will be critical for developing new digital services.
The Senate Judiciary version counts a multicast network
signal as served and the legislators have called on the House-Senate conference
on the bills to choose that approach.
Lead signatories on the bill were Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) and
Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Also weighing in on the bill were the National Cable &
Telecommunications Association and DirecTV, both of which were pleased with the
House version as is.
"We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the
Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act," said NCTA President
Kyle McSlarrow in a statement. "This legislation makes great strides to
advance continuity and resolves the so-called â€˜phantom signal' issue, in
addition to providing fairness for both copyright owners and distributors. We
look forward to working with the Senate to ensure passage and its eventual
enactment into law."
"On behalf of our more than 18 million subscribers, DirecTV
applauds the House of Representatives for passing HR. 3570, the Satellite Home
Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act," said DirecTV in its statement.
"We appreciate the hard work of the House Judiciary and Energy and
Commerce committees who successfully struck a balance among the various
industries affected by the bill. More importantly, HR. 3570 protects the
interests of the viewing public."
Both the legislators and DirecTV called it the Satellite Home
Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act, which is what it had been called when it
passed out of committee, but the bill actually got a name change before passage
to the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act, or SHVRA.