The House has scheduled a vote today on its version of the satellite compulsory license reauthorization bill (the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act of 2009, or SHVURA), according to a copy of the floor schedule of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
The vote is on suspension, meaning it requires a two-thirds vote and that it is also likely to pass, since that is usually the route for noncontroversial bills. It is listed as HR 3570, the Judiciary Committee version, but a source says that and a Commerce version have been combined.
The bill reauthorizes satellite operators' license to import distant network affiliate TV signals to viewers who cannot receive a viewable signal from their local affiliate.
The bill would allow EchoStar back into the distant-signal business if it agreed to deliver local TV station signals to all 210 markets. But according to a source, the bill also still includes an amendment by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that would advance the FCC's timetable for requiring delivery of the HD signals of noncommercial stations.
If so, EchoStar has indicated that moving up that timetable represents a commitment of satellite capacity that could jeopardize its ability to deliver that local-into-local service.
The bill has to pass by the end of the year or the license expires, though if there were no agreement on the bill, which has been pared of many of its more potentially controversial elements, Congress would likely just extend it a year while it hammered out a bill.
According to a source, the bill was still being vetted by legislative counsel and a draft was still being finalized, so no specific language is included yet.