New Orleans -- Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) Monday tossed his support behind a simple extension of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 -- an outcome that would be favorable to EchoStar Communications Corp.
If Stevens get his way, that would end the effort in the House to give EchoStar one year to stop requiring subscribers in about 42 markets to acquire two dishes in order to receive all of their local broadcast signals.
"I would favor a simple extension," said Stevens, who is the second-ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee and chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee. "I think it would be very unfortunate if it became the engine that pulled a lot of cabooses."
A simple extension would mean not much more than EchoStar and DirecTV Inc. continuing to retain copyright authority to provide the signals of ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox to direct-broadcast satellite customers who can't pick up the same programming with off-air antennas.
The copyright authority for distant networks sunsets Dec. 31, putting pressure on Congress to produce a bill so that hundreds of thousands of DBS subscribers do not lose service.
Stevens spoke at a National Show luncheon hosted by National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Robert Sachs. Joining the two was Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who spoke in favor of a more comprehensive SHVIA review.
"At this point, I think we ought to make a run at reviewing the entire act, because that was the purpose of the sunset to begin with," Sensenbrenner said.
Sensenbrenner noted that due to a legislative calendar shortened by the national political conventions and the November elections, a simple SHVIA reauthorization might be necessary.
"If we do have a simple extension, I think it should be as short as possible," he added.