Satellite TV … and Beyond!

Mar 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Could a Democratic Congress dramatically rewrite the rules on how TV stations are compensated by satellite and cable systems?
The question emerged last week in Congress as not one, not two, but three separate congressional committees began examining the country’s Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, which expires at year end.
The act details procedures for determining which signals from distant TV stations a satellite provider can import into a local market—and controls copyright compensation.
“With the advent of the Internet, it is ludicrous that you can watch anything on the Internet, but you have to watch your own [Designated Market Area] on TV,” Charles W. Ergen, president-CEO of Dish Network, told one of the committees.
Some congressmen representing smaller markets want the satellite companies to use their capacity to retransmit local stations.
Congress’ examination of stations’ relationship with satellite TV providers may expand into other issues.
“This is the opening salvo of a debate,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., whose committee held one of the hearings. “We are talking about a satellite extension, but it’s hard not to involve some other issues before us.”
Many issues have gotten hot since the last time Congress reviewed the legislation. The emergence of high-definition TV, new digital subchannels on stations and Web video have tilted the media landscape.
Broadcasters, cable providers, satellite providers and even congressmen say that creates a venue for a high-stakes fight in Congress that, after the DTV transition is accomplished in June, could become the biggest fight this year in Congress for media companies.
The results of the debate could dramatically impact the choice of stations that consumers get to see on TV and how much they pay for cable and satellite services. The debate could determine what out-of-market stations satellite carriers can bring in, whether the stations are aired in HD, whether secondary multicast stations are carried and what happens when stations fail to reach agreement on compensation.
Last week there were repeated calls to keep the issues under consideration narrow, and warnings that Congress might not be able to resist roaming further afield.
Some of the collateral issues that came up last week included proposals that cable and satellite providers be required to negotiate copyright fees with the producers of the content that they retransmit from stations. The Motion Picture Association of America last week said content providers are being underpaid for their copyrighted material.
Cable and satellite companies warned that requiring them to pay fees to producers for individual programs would be “horrifyingly complex.”
Meanwhile, broadcasters said the current system is working and major changes are unwarranted; they urged the act be reauthorized.

One Comment

  1. Your website is amazing. I wonder just how do you manage to write posts so often. I’m very lazy.

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