The Senate Commerce Committee approved a five-bill slate by voice vote, sending a bill encouraging LPFM and the satellite reauthorization bill on their way forward.
S. 592 the Local Community Radio Act of 2009, was brought before the committee by Maria Cantwell (D-WA), echoing a similar bill in the House. It will encourage the proliferation of low power FM stations by eliminating 3rd adjacent channel protection for incumbent FM stations.
“These are important local voices that offer community-based radio services in a low-cost and flexible manner and I support this legislation,” said Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV). Ranking Member Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said that while it may yet need a little work, she supports the bill and believes that low power FM may be a factor in providing minorities with broadcast experience.
S. 2764 the Satellite TV Extension and Localism Act, a bill to keep alive the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act (SHVERA) from Rockefeller and John Kerry (D-MA), also passed, although not until Claire McCaskill (D-MO) agreed to withdraw an amendment which would have given satellite broadcasters three years to provide local-into-local service for all 210 Nielsen DMAs.
Instead, the bill will instruct the FCC to conduct a study to determine if the companies are avoiding 100% local-into-local service for technical reasons or for profitability concerns.
Tom Udall (D-NM) brought up the other key sticking point to SHVERA – the inability of citizens who live in one state but are considered home to a DMA located in another state to receive television stations with local news that pertains to the state in which they live.
With four committees involved in this must-pass legislation, leaders in both houses of Congress have been largely successful in heading off amendments dealing with these contentious issues, and today’s amendment withdrawal from McCaskill was just the latest example.
However, STELA/SHVERA must be merged with a version that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rockefeller promised to address these issues again.
RBR-TVBR observation: There seems to be zero organized opposition to the LPFM bill at this point – it appears well on its way to becoming a law.
As for SHVERA, congressional leaders have gotten it this far without major amendment; it seems highly unlikely they’ll allow the bill to be greatly modified behind closed doors. However, although amendments were avoided, debate was not. We expect to hear more about this issue going forward. And it looks like we can also expect an FCC report on the matter.