Satellite License Extended To May 31

House and Senate pass, President Obama signs bill late Thursday
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Congress late Thursday extended the satellite license yet again, this time to May 31.

That came when the Senate and House passed, and the president late Thursday signed, H.R. 4851, the "Continuing Extension Act of 2010."

That package included yet another extension of the license that allows satellite operators to deliver distant network TV station signals to subs who can't receive a comparable local signal.

For the past several months, the extension has been wedded to extensions of jobless and medical benefits, which like the satellite license would have expired at the end of last year without some congressional action.

Congress failed to agree on a five-year renewal of the satellite license, but currently has five-year and 10-year versions of a full authorization in the hopper.

The full reauthorization will update the law to reflect the transition to digital, since the definition of signals and coverage referred to analog, as well as allowing DISH network back into the distant signal business in exchange for delivering local TV station signals to subs in the smallest markets where they have been heretofore unavailable.

The bill also resolves the so-called phantom signal issue for cable operators, who will no longer have to pay a fee based on viewers who aren't getting their programming.

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