Ensign to Take SHVIA Lead in Commerce


Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) is going to take the lead in the Commerce Committee on legislation extending the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 for another five years, Senate and industry sources said Thursday.

Ensign spokesman Jack Finn said he couldn’t comment because he was not aware that Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) had asked Ensign to prepare a bill.

An industry source said it was likely that the bill could be introduced and passed out of McCain’s panel within two weeks.

Ensign, 46, is a freshman lawmaker who is a veterinarian by training.

DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. need the SHVIA law extended or they will be forced to stop selling superstations and distant network signals of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to hundreds of thousands of home-dish owners after Dec. 31.

Because the SHVIA includes communications and copyright provisions, legislation must obtain approval from four congressional committees. McCain’s panel is the only one needed that hasn’t adopted a bill.

DirecTV and EchoStar offer local TV signals within their home markets pursuant to a permanent copyright license, meaning that failure by Congress to extend the SHVIA this year would not jeopardize local TV service to millions of satellite customers.