McCain bill touts netcasts on sats

FCC earmarks spectrum for DBS

WASHINGTON — In an effort to keep network signals flickering in the living rooms of about 1 million DBS subscribers, Senate Commerce Committee chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) has introduced a new bill to keep the web signals flowing until at least 1999.

McCain’s legislation is prompted by a recent court ruling that ordered satcasters to turn off the network signals on Oct. 8. The court found that the satcasters are violating the Satellite Home Viewing Act, which bars companies such as PrimeTime 24 from selling networks to any customer who has access to network signals locally.

In addition to effectively nullifying the court decision, McCain’s bill would also alter current law so that satcasters could provide a package of programming that includes local TV station signals. Initially, satcasters would not have to carry all of the local stations, as some broadcasters want; the legislation would require DBS companies to provide all the local channels by January 2002.

Sudden deprivation

“The bill ensures that no satellite TV subscriber is suddenly deprived of network TV stations, and will enable satellite TV providers to offer the local stations they need.”

In other satcasting related news, the FCC voted Thursday to set aside a 500 megahertz chunk of spectrum for additional DBS services. The slice of spectrum, which will not become available until 2007, is big enough to accommodate hundreds of digitally delivered channels. Although the FCC set aside the spectrum for satcasting, it did not decide how it would be meted out. Agency staffers said decisions regarding the licensing of the spectrum would be handled later.

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