Leahy Looks for "Short-Time" Agreement on Satellite Reauthorization

Agreement would streamline floor consideration on must-pass legislation as blanket license expiration nears

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said Nov. 5
he hoped to work with his colleagues to get a short-time agreement on
the Judiciary committee version of the satellite reathorization bill that was passed out of committee Sept. 24.

The short-time agreement is a way to streamline the floor
consideration of a noncontroversial bill. Leahy pointed out that his
committee has a lot on its plate, including nominations to vet and vote
out and several pieces of must-pass legislation.

He said he
didn't think the bill was controversial. The bill that was reported out
of Leahy's committee passed by voice vote and was free of entangling
amendments. Essentially, it would allow for the importation of distant
signals into so-called short markets that lack one of the network
affiliates or a sufficiently strong signal from a nearby affiliate and
also makes technical corrections to reflect the advent of digital TV.

also calls for a study on phasing out the license, which is a way of
dealing with the issue without having it become an obstacle to passage.

time is growing short for the reauthorization--the satellite blanket
license to import distant affiliate TV station signals expires at the
end of the year--there is still work to do.

The Senate Judiciary
bill must still be signed off on by the Senate Commerce Committee, then
reconciled with a House version. Because it involves both
communications and copyright issues, jurisdiction is split among
Judiciary and commerce committees in the Senate and House.

The House version that passed out of the Energy & Commerce Committee
currently contains a provision--which allows Dish Network back in the
distant signal business in exchange for delivering local TV station
signals in all 210 markets--that is not in the Senate version.

A possible stop-gap alternative if the two bills cannot be reconciled would be to extend the license for a year.