Leahy-Authored Extension Of Satellite TV Licenses Set To Become Law

Vermont Senator Steers Five Year Extension Through Congress

WASHINGTON – Legislation authored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to reauthorize satellite television licenses and to modernize satellite television services is headed to the President’s desk for signature, following a vote this morning in the House of Representatives.  Leahy has been working for months with leaders in the Senate and House to reauthorize several satellite television licenses which are set to expire on May 31.

“This legislation modernizes and extends important statutory copyright licenses that allow cable and satellite companies to retransmit the content transmitted by television broadcasters,” said Leahy.  “This is a good bill that will preserve and improve the service that customers across the country are accustomed to receiving, and I am pleased that it will finally be signed into law.”

The Senate unanimously approved the legislation on May 7.  The Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) will reauthorize expiring statutory licenses that permit satellite providers to retransmit broadcast stations to consumers.  It will also modernize and simplify the licenses, while making adjustments that will encourage satellite providers to make more local content available.

The legislation includes a provision that will particularly benefit Vermont satellite television customers in Vermont’s southern-most counties, allowing DISH Network viewers, like DirecTV viewers, to receive Vermont broadcast stations by satellite.  In addition, the legislation solves the so-called “cable phantom signal” problem which, if left unaddressed, would lead to higher prices and fewer regional stations for Vermont cable customers.  In northern Vermont, for example, this provision will make it possible for Comcast subscribers to continue to receive Hockey Night in Canada, which otherwise may not have remained available. 

“Vermonters will see improved service when this bill is signed into law,” said Leahy.  “As soon as DISH Network uses this authority, virtually everyone in the State will be able to access the news and information that is truly important to Vermonters.”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, approved legislation to extend the expiring licenses in September, but it did not come to the Senate floor for final action.  Congress has four times extended the provision, including the most recent extension to May 31.  Leahy has worked with members in the Senate and House, including Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Senate Commerce Committee Chairman and Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Lamar Smith (R-Texas), and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Ranking Member Joe Barton (R-Texas), and Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.), to strike an agreement on the legislation. 

The legislation draws on recommendations made by the United States Copyright Office in a June 2008 report.  Congress first passed the Satellite Home Viewer Act in 1988 and it was last reauthorized in 2004.    

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