Broadcasters Not Pleased With SHVRA Provision

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Some broadcasters are said not to be happy with a provision in the just-passed House version of the satellite compulsory license reauthorization bill that would allow satellite operators to import network affiliate signals that would duplicate those being delivered via multicast.

Certainly, a bipartisan group of legislators has a big bone to pick with it.

The bill, which passed overwhelmingly Thursday, would define households as "unserved" even if they received a multicast version of the same network programming.

Some networks have struck deals in so-called short markets -- ones where they lack an affiliate -- to use a multicast channel to create a local market presence for their network signals.

The National Association of Broadcasters reacted to the bill's passage with an appreciation for the hard work involved, but with the suggestion the bill needed some more work.

"NAB appreciates the dedication of Chairmen [John] Conyers and [Henry] Waxman and ranking members [Joe] Barton and [Lamar] Smith on an issue of critical importance to broadcast television's future," said NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton, but he added: "As the process moves forwards, NAB looks forward to our continued work with both chambers of Congress to ensure that final legislation preserves the enduring value of free and local broadcast TV."

Less circumspect were a group of 14 legislators (seven Republicans, and a like number of Democrats) who Thursday sent a letter to Conyers and Waxman saying they were troubled by the extension of the definition of unserved to include multicast signals.

They argued that the bill enables DBS companies "to impede and undermine multicast network affiliates." Including multicast in the definition of unserved will end after three years, but the legislators say that those three years will be critical for developing new digital services.

The Senate Judiciary version counts a multicast network signal as served and the legislators have called on the House-Senate conference on the bills to choose that approach.

Lead signatories on the bill were Frank Kratovil (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

Also weighing in on the bill were the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and DirecTV, both of which were pleased with the House version as is.

"We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act," said NCTA President Kyle McSlarrow in a statement. "This legislation makes great strides to advance continuity and resolves the so-called ‘phantom signal' issue, in addition to providing fairness for both copyright owners and distributors. We look forward to working with the Senate to ensure passage and its eventual enactment into law."

"On behalf of our more than 18 million subscribers, DirecTV applauds the House of Representatives for passing HR. 3570, the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act," said DirecTV in its statement. "We appreciate the hard work of the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce committees who successfully struck a balance among the various industries affected by the bill. More importantly, HR. 3570 protects the interests of the viewing public."

Both the legislators and DirecTV called it the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act, which is what it had been called when it passed out of committee, but the bill actually got a name change before passage to the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act, or SHVRA.

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