The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved a bill to extend the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act for five more years -- another step in ensuring uninterrupted access to ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox programming for millions of satellite-dish owners.
The bill (S. 2013), approved by voice vote, is less onerous on EchoStar Communications Corp. than companion House legislation approved by the House Energy and Commerce Committee earlier in the month.
Unlike the Senate bill, the House bill would require EchoStar to stop requiring customers in about 40 markets to obtain second dishes in order to receive all local TV stations.
The SHVIA bill is considered must-pass legislation because after Dec. 31, DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar would lose their authority to serve a few millions eligible households with out-of-town feeds of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
If those signals were dropped, the anger of viewers would likely be felt on Capitol Hill.
The direct-broadcast satellite providers do not have to worry about continuing to serve local markets with their local TV stations. The copyright license to offer those signals on a local-to-local basis is permanent.