Satellite Legislation: The Final Hurdle

Satellite Legislation: The Final Hurdle

At approximately 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 20, 1999, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved legislation that would allow Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) television providers to carry local stations for the first time. This legislation was similar to legislation adopted by the House last month. The bill now goes to a joint conference committee to be reconciled. This combined bill would allow satellite companies to legally transmit local channels to their customers. However, after 2002, it would require DBS providers to carry every channel in a market served. The DBS providers have stated that “must carry” provisions would limit the number of cities where they could offer local channels due to limited transmission capacity. The broadcasting industry had threatened to oppose the legislation if “must carry” was not included.

The legislation also seeks to prevent court-ordered cutoffs of network programming to millions of satellite television customers who were found to have received the stations illegally. The legislation would delay cutoffs of network programming to people living within 35 miles of their local television station until December 31, 1999. People beyond the 35-mile rule limit would not be cut off until the FCC developed a new method to adequate over-the-air-reception.

Local TV on Satellite is gearing up to make a visiting “blitz” to Washington, DC within the next few weeks to monitor the joint committee meeting and lobby the appropriate legislators on the joint committee. John Hutchinson, Executive Vice President & COO from LTVS said, “America’s favorite programming is carried on local TV. This is where consumers tune in to view local news, weather emergencies, the Oscars, Young and the Restless, Sesame Street and Oprah. Local TV continues to be the number one preference in every home in America.”

More updates as they unfold ….

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