Policy

Congress Ready To OK Importing Signals

5/03/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

Congress is getting closer to allowing satellite-TV providers to import TV station signals into adjacent markets in cases where those markets cross state lines.

Many cable operators don’t want that to happen unless the change applies to them, too. Unless cable gets the same opportunity to reconcile its split-market problem, MSOs have argued, it would be unfair and consumer unfriendly to put the thumb on the scale in favor of satellites.

The American Cable Association made that point last week in letters it hoped to get legislators to get behind. The ACA, whose members were in Washington last week to press the flesh, took that opportunity to circulate the letter, addressed to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, asking that if the Congress decides to give satellite operators a break, it should do the same for cable operators.

At the same conference, National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow told Multichannel News that he wasn’t handicapping whether or not the split-market provision would wind up in the bill reauthorizing satellite operators’ blanket distant-TV signal license (the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act), but said if it did, cable needed to be in there too.

Pushing back hard on the other side have been TV-station affiliate associations, who argue that giving satellite or cable companies the ability to import nearby stations would upset the retransmission-consent regime by giving multichannel video operators undue leverage.

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