The satellite reauthorization bill should be signed, sealed and delivered to the president's desk by week's end, according to House Communications Subcommittee chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.).
He said the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) stood on the verge of passage. He said there were agreements among the key stakeholders on the text of the new bill as it currently reads in a Senate version attached to a jobs bill.
"There will be, within a matter of days, the passage of this measure in the Senate," he said. "My prediction is that there will be opposition in the House to the provisions that are in this Senate legislation. So we should be able virtually as soon as the bill passes the Senate to also pass it in the House. Odds are by the end of this week, we will have a five-year renewal passed by both Houses of Congress and signed by the President."
Boucher thanked the rights-holders, a group that included studios, broadcasters and sport leagues, for agreeing to allow the continued delivery of their distant-network TV signals after Congress failed to reauthorize the license as of its expiration date of Feb. 28.
Key to the bill for Boucher is the provision that allows Dish Network to provide distant -network signals in exchange for providing local station signals into the remaining handful of markets -- a couple dozen or so -- where local stations are not avilable on the No. 2 DBS provider. While cable operators have to carry any station that asks for carriage, satellite operators can choose not to, though, they must devliver all local signals in any market where they choose to deliver at least one.
Boucher said he had assurances as recently as of Feb. 27 that Dish would make the requisite invesment to get that done. Boucher said that should be within a couple of years.
The congressman thanked NAB for its help in getting that done -- Dish and the broadcasters essentially came to a marketplace deal with a helpful nudge from Congress.
Boucher also praised new NAB president and former Oregon Republican Sen. Gordon Smith as an outstanding person, respected on both sides of the aisle, and someone who he said would do a great job.
He also praised broadcasters for helping get his shield law bill this far -- it has passed the House but got hung up in the Senate -- and called on them to lobby for it in the Senate on their Hill visits.