The Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet unanimously forward the update of the Satellite Home Viewer Reauthorization Act of 2009 to the full Energy and Commerce Committee with a favorable recommendation. As expected, controversial measures involving importation of broadcast signals from adjacent markets were left out. That doesn’t mean they didn’t come up. Amendments to bring adjacent market network affiliates into short markets (those lacking a full complement of top four networks) and importation of adjacent stations in dual state DMAs were brought up and withdrawn. An agreement on universal local-into-local was said to be close at hand.
Subcommittee Chair Rick Boucher (D-VA) praised the panel for its cooperation and mentioned the benefits of the bill, including making sure all significantly-viewed stations get carriage rights and general updating of the bill to reflect the new digital reality. He also said that stakeholders in the satellite and broadcast communities were making progress in negotiations to get local-into-local satellite service in all 210 DMAs. He hoped there would be enough progress to add this element into the bill during full committee markup.
His remarks were largely echoed by Ranking Member Cliff Stearns (R-FL), who took the occasion to state his preference going forward for market rather than regulatory solutions to the controversial planks still left unaddressed.
In the spirit of getting the bill finished while still highlighting certain issues, Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced and pulled an amendment that would address bringing adjacent network signals into markets, like Jackson TN, where they are lacking (Jackson is served by only two of the four majors). Nathan Deal (R-GA) did the same for the issue of DMAs covering more than one state, where consumers would like to be able to get home-state news but are stuck with stations across the border.
Boucher noted that some of the issues were matter for the Judiciary Committee, but that this subcommittee would be a good venue to at the very least give them a thorough debate.
Dennis Wharton gave the Subcommittee a favorable review. “NAB appreciates the great leadership of Chairman Boucher, Ranking Member Stearns and their colleagues in unanimously passing a bill that recognizes the enduring value of free and local television. NAB will continue to work with lawmakers on the Commerce and Judiciary Committees in both the House and Senate to ensure that local broadcasting is preserved and strengthened as this legislation moves forward.”
RBR/TVBR observation: The controversial issues, which don’t necessarily break down into Democrat/Republican issues, were tabled in a bipartisan effort to get this bill done under deadline. They are almost certain to come up again, maybe as early as next month when the full committee gets a crack at this bill.