The House version of the satellite-TV reauthorization bill (HR 3750, the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act) passed convincingly last week (394 to 11).
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association gave it a thumbs-up, as did DirecTV. But Dish Network is troubled by a mandate to carry noncommercial HD signals. And broadcasters, and some legislators were displeased because the bill allows satellite operators to import network signals that duplicate ones on multicast stations in a market.
The bill combines the House Commerce and Judiciary versions and reauthorizes the satellite compulsory license for carriage of distant network affiliate TV station signals for another five years. It also deals with some cable carriage and various copyright issues, including an audit process for copyright owners so they can make sure they get the royalties they are entitled to, stiffer penalties for infringement, and clarification that their royalty applies to digital multicast streams carried by satellite.
Other highlights of the communications side of the bill — Commerce and Judiciary have split jurisdiction — include fixing the “phantom signal” problem, in which cable operators paid for signals their customers didn’t receive, and allowing Dish back into the distant-signal business in exchange for delivering local station signals (local-into-local) to the remaining 28 small markets that lack them.
“Dish Network remains concerned about the HD carriage mandate for PBS stations included in the bill, and the substantial additional penalties and burdensome audit requirements recently added to the bill,” the company said in a statement.
“We applaud the U.S. House of Representatives passage of the Satellite Home Viewer Update and Reauthorization Act,” said National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow in a statement. “This legislation makes great strides to advance continuity and resolve the so-called 'phantom signal’ issue, in addition to providing fairness for both copyright owners and distributors.
The bill must now either be reconciled with two different Senate versions, or the Senate could vote to approve the House version. Either way, something has to happen or the satellite license to carry distant TV network signals expires at year-end.