House Version of SHVRA Bill Doesn't Make It to Vote Wednesday

Legislation ready for Thursday vote

The House version of the satellite bill (now called SHVRA for Satellite Home Viewer Reathorization Act) did not make it to a vote Wednesday, but both sides weighed in and it has been teed up for a Thursday vote.

The bill combines the House Commerce and Judiciary versions and reuthorizes the satellite compulsory license for carriage of distant network affiliate TV station signals for another five years, a license that expires at the end of the year unless a new bill, or a stopgap extension, is passed. It also deals with some cable carriage and copyright issues.

Highlights of the bill include fixing the "phantom signal" problem in which cable operators were paying for signals their customers didn't recieve, and allowing DISH network back into the distant-signal business in exchange for delivering local station signals (local-into-local) to the remaining 28 small markets that lack them.

But it also has an amendment that would require DISH to deliver high-definition noncommercial station signals on an advance timetable, a timetable DISH has said it can't meet.

The local-into-local provision in the bill is essentially a legislative stamp on a deal struck between broadcasters and satellite companies, and there is a provision in that deal that additional carriage burdens might invalidate it.

Speaking about that issue on the floor Wednesday, Rick Boucher (D-Va.), chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, as well as a member of the Judiciary Committee, said he thought DISH would be able to meet the deadline and deliver local-into-local in those remaining 28 markets. Several legislators also indicated there might be a deal between DISH and noncommercial broadcasters that would moot the amendment before the bill was sent over to the Senate.

EhcoStar had no comment at press time on the newly consolidated bill or the suggestions it was either close to a deal or could handle the local-into-local HD load on the government's timetable.