Panel OKs Satellite-Act Renewal


A bill to give EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network one year to stop requiring customers to buy second satellite dishes to view all available local broadcast-TV signals was approved by a voice vote Thursday by the full House Commerce Committee.

The bill, nearly identical to the version recommended by a House Commerce Subcommittee in April, now awaits action from the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering copyright provisions. It could move to the floor within days of Judiciary action.

EchoStar, which opposes the provision, transmits local TV stations using multiple satellites, forcing viewers to access all local broadcast programming via second dishes. A one-dish rule would mean that millions of current and future customers would no longer be required to buy such dishes.

The Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 would also extend key provisions of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 from the end of this year until 2010, including an exemption for satellite operators from negotiating retransmission consent when providing distant broadcast signals to subscribers.

The law would require the Federal Communications Commission to study before 2006 how many subscribers would not be served by over-the-air digital signals if the target date of 2007 is met for turning off analog broadcasts.

“We have been working in a bipartisan manner -- both within this committee, as well as with the Judiciary Committee -- and we hope to combine our respective committees’ products into one legislative vehicle down the road,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

“This is an excellent product that carefully balances the equities on all sides of this matter,” Upton added.

States News Service