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Satellite TV vs. TV Stations, Round Two

Feb 25, 2009  •  Post A Comment

For the second time in two days, Congress is hearing calls for a major revamping of the laws governing compensation of TV stations and programmers by satellite-television providers and cable companies.
The discussion comes as Congress starts considering whether to extend the satellite home viewer act, which expires at year end, or to make changes to the law before extending it.
The satellite law details procedures for determining which out-of-market stations can be brought into a market by satellite broadcasters—and how much stations get paid for those signals.
While that is controversial—some legislators are upset that smaller markets aren’t getting local stations on their satellite feeds—the congressional debate over the act is quickly turning into forum for a far broader fight about compensation and other issues.
The debate expanded again today in hearings before the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The discussion opened with consideration of which out of-market TV stations satellite providers should be allowed to bring into a market—especially in markets that cross state lines. It quickly turned into one about whether to rewrite rules for copyright compensation for programmers and for retransmission consent for broadcasters from both satellite and cable providers as well.
The current law for both the cable and satellite companies allows them to negotiate retransmission of station signals as a business deal with TV stations. But once consent is reached, there is no separate negotiation with program providers. Cable and satellite companies get so called “compulsory licenses” to retransmit the TV station’s content.
At today’s hearing Fritz Attaway, executive VP of the Motion Picture Association of America, told the House Judiciary Committee the compulsory licenses are “historical anachronisms that are no longer needed.”
Suggesting the system undercompensates program suppliers, he urged Congress make cable and satellite systems negotiate rights for individual programs.
A revamping was also supported by the U.S. Copyright Office. Marybeth Peters, registrar of the copyright office, said the current rules are outdated because some of the original concerns about satellite systems being viable cable competitors have ended and the current rules fail to take note of important factors in digital TV. She called for “harmonization” of requirements.
Meanwhile, representatives of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and Comcast questioned whether the legislation should include some procedure for dealing with problems winning retransmission consent—but they and the National Association of Broadcasters warned against big changes to the regulatory scheme.
And there were still questions about which stations satellite companies should be able to bring into local markets.
“With the advent of Internet, it is ludicrous that you can watch anything on the Internet, but you have to watch your own DMA on TV,” Charles W. Ergen, president-CEO of DISH Network Corporation, told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
(Editor: Baumann)

23 Comments

  1. Here in Canada, we get distant signals ON TOP OF our locals. You can get local stations from 5 different time zones (from Atlantic Canada going all the way west to B.C.). I can (((kind of))) see why you’d protect each local market, but it’s also not very convenient. Imagine getting your major networks from all 4 time zones (NY, Chicago, Denver, L.A.).

  2. I don’t pretend to understand all the stats and ramifications of the cable/satellite controversy. All I know is that I cannot get Versus on my CableOne and no one will give me a straight answer why not. In Ohio I was able to receive it and here in Oklahoma I cannot. Why not? Who can I talk to in order to voice my frustrations?

  3. but you have to watch your own DMA on TV ? ? ? What the hell does that mean

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