WASHINGTON -- The SHVERA reauthorization bill (HR 2994) passed unanimously in the House Communications, Technology & Internet Subcommittee Thursday with essentially no entangling amendments. A full committee markup will come later in the summer.
The panel's chairman, Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), said Thursday that broadcasters, satellite-TV operators and other stakeholders are close to a deal, perhaps within days, to provide local television stations via satellite in 210 markets.
Boucher said at a markup of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA) that he expected that agreement to be struck soon, certainly before the full Energy and Commmerce Committee markup later this summer.
The bill remained straightforward, with no amendment offered by Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.), who for several years has been pushing a bill that would allow cable and satellite operators to import adjacent-market signals.
It is looking less likely that fixing so-called split markets by importing adjacent signals to markets that straddle state lines will be in the bill. Though Boucher said he was willing to talk about it and hoped for a resolution, he did not talk about it in his opening statement, and ranking member Sen. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) said that he "agree[d] with leaving it out of the bill at this time."
Boucher said he expected that the short-market issue will be resolved in the final bill. That is delivering adjacent-market network signals to markets that lack one or more network affiliates.
Rep. Marsh Blackburn (R-Tenn.) introduced and then withdrew an amendment that would have tried to solve the short-market issue, saying it was a public safety problem. She cited tornados in her state and one Tennessee market where the satellite carrier did not deliver local TV stations because of the economics of that short-market status. She agreed to withdraw after Boucher assured her he was confident some solution could be worked out in the final bill.
Also, as Boucher pointed out -- and Blackburn conceded -- the House Judiciary Committee, which shares jurisdiction on the measure, would have to address the issue.
The Energy & Commerce Committee's ranking member, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), said he was glad it was going to be a "boring" SHVERA reauthorization hearing, rather than a contentious one on the failure of the digital-TV transition transition. His point: the transition was successful and "nothing happened."
Said Barton: "We think this is going to be a pretty straightforward reauthorization."
Almost all the subcommittee members waived their opening statements, a sign that the hearing was going to be straightforward and swift. It was, taking only a little more than a half-hour, with none but the manager's amendment introduced.
Boucher introduced a manager's amendment with only a couple of changes: One preserving the Federal Communications Commission's Longley-Rice model for determining signal strength, and the other reinserting a provision that requires that testing digital reception for the purposes of distant-signal reception will continue to be based on a stationary, rooftop antenna.
Boucher said that decision to continue to use the rooftop antenna is subject to discussion. Stearns had earlier express concerns about using the rooftop standard, given many viewers don't have such antennas -- a point made by reception issues following the digital transition.
Rep. Nathan Deal (R-Ga.), who has been pushing to fix the split-market issue, had prepared an amendment but agreed not to introduce it, due to Boucher's pledge to continue to talk about the matter. Boucher said he would very much like to see the split-signal matter resolved and said he would be happy to continue discussions.
The Deal amendment would have allowed satellite operators and broadcasters to negotiate for adjacent-market carriage. The amendment would be confined to satellite, though Deal said he thought it should also apply to cable, for parity's sake.