02.26.10

Leahy Blasts Republican Objection Stalling Extension Of Satellite TV Licenses

...Vermonters May Lose Some Channels Beginning Monday

WASHINGTON – Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Friday criticized a Republican Senator’s objection to adopting a 30-day extension of expiring provisions of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension Reauthorization Act, which permits satellite providers to retransmit broadcast stations to consumers. 

Leahy, long the Senate’s leader in updating the law to expand and improve service to satellite customers, last year introduced the bipartisan Satellite Television Modernization Act to extend the license for four years.  The license was originally set to expire on December 31, but Leahy helped steer a two-month extension before Congress recessed for the winter holidays.  Leahy has been working successfully with Democrats and Republicans in the Senate and House to strike a bipartisan agreement to extend the satellite licenses for five years, and to make other improvements to the law.

The distance satellite license is set to expire Sunday night.  A single Republican Senator has stalled a Senate measure to extend the provisions for one month to protect satellite customers while the negotiations continue.

“Many Vermonters are at risk of turning on their televisions Monday morning for their morning news, weather and traffic updates, only to see a blank screen,” said Leahy.  “A single Senate Republican has rejected reasonable, bipartisan requests to renew the law to extend these licenses.  Since last September, I have been working to make sure Vermonters, especially those in the state’s southern counties, have access to the state's broadcast stations.  I urge DirecTV and other satellite providers to continue to offer service to customers while the Senate works through this objection.”

Also on Friday, Leahy joined other Senate and House leaders in sending a letter to television providers, urging them to continue providing services to customers, despite the expiration of the licenses.

“We write to urge all parties…to temporarily maintain the status quo…in order to avoid disrupting the provision of ‘lifeline’ network programming to hundreds of thousands of Americans,” the letter reads.  “We intend to include a lookback provision in STELA to ensure that parties whose conduct was permitted under the law and regulation in effect immediately prior to expiration are held harmless.”

The full text of the letter is available online.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs, approved the Satellite Television Modernization Act in September.  Leahy included in the legislation 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.  The Leahy-authored bill also makes it easier for satellite providers to serve local markets that are missing a network affiliate.

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