Senate Commerce Introduces Draft Satellite Bill

Does not yet appear to include a provision for fixing so-called short markets

Add STELA to the list of names for the satellite reauthorization bill, the latest version of which was just introduced as a draft by the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday.

The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act does not yet appear to include a provision for fixing so-called short markets--a fix in the Senate Judiciary version--or a provision for getting local service to all the nation's markets--which is in the House version. But it does mirror the House version's amendment requiring EchoStar to deliver all noncommercial stations' HD signals on an accelerated timetable, one EchoStar has indicated would be difficult to meet.

That amendment could potentially put the the kibosh on Echostar's agreement to deliver local TV stations in all 210 markets in exchange for being allowed back into the distant-signal business. That amendment was not part of the Senate Judiciary version of the bill--Commerce and Judiciary split jurisdiction.

The bill reauthorizes satellite operators copyright license to deliver distant network affiliate TV station signals to viewers who cannot get a viewable signal from their local affiliate.

The bill updates the language of the bill to reflect the switch to digital TV, like the Senate Judiciary version requires the FCC to study whether the license should be phased out in favor of marketplace negotiations.

The license must be renewed by the end of the year, which means the House and Senate bills must be reconciled, or it will sunset.