Satellite Bill Benefits Broadcasters

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Broadcasters will find a lot to like in an early draft of a House Commerce Committee bill under which satellite providers would maintain the right to carry local TV channels and network superstations.

One big plus would be a congressional order to Echostar to stop relegating some local channels to a second dish antenna that few subscribers bother to install.

The DBS company would be required to put all local channels on the same dish within six months of the law's enactment. Where the switch causes technical problems, waivers could be granted for another six months.

Broadcasters also will like a provision barring DBS providers from importing network superstations into a market once the satellite provider offers other local channels in that market.

To ease the impact of that provision, viewers who already get superstations could continue the service until they sign up for local channels. Satellite viewers neighboring big markets in another state would also be able to get channels from those areas if their communities are part of the stations' normal audience.

To give DBS something from its wish list, the FCC would be ordered to study whether satellite providers should be able to import digital network superstations when the they can't get a digital picture from the network's local affiliate.

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