House Passes Satellite Bill

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The House Wednesday passed a bill that renews satellite companies' right to carry local TV-station signals. Passed in 1999, the bill helped satellite companies to better compete with cable's mix of national networks and local-market TV signals.

The new version tries to level the field even more, giving satellite companies expanded abilities in the importation of distant network signals to unserved markets and requiring them to comply with the same kind of customer privacy constraints applied to cable.

Absent from the bill is a provision pushed by The Digital Transition Coalition (DTC), a strange-bedfellow coalition of tax freedom groups, activists and others, that would have given DBS companies the ability to import distant digital network signals to so-called "white areas"--those unserved by a local network affiliate--similar to their right to deliver distant analog signals to unserved customers.

The groups argued that the provision would help speed the DTV transition, and in the case of the tax groups in DTC, to speed the return of spectrum for auction.

The NAB praised passage, while the DTC criticized the lack of a digital white-area provision, though it pointed out the Senate version still has that provision.

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