Bill would delay fee hike

Next stop: House commerce committee

WASHINGTON — A House subcommittee approved a bill Wednesday that would rescind 10-fold hike in satellite copyright fees implemented last January by the U.S. Copyright office.

The bill, approved by the House telecommunications subcommittee, would rescind the fee hike for at least seven months while the Federal Communications Commission studied the issue. A similar bill is making its way through the Senate.

As it approved the bill, the subcommittee rejected a proposal by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) that would have delayed the March 31, 1999, deadline for ending cable regulation. Markey introduced his proposal as an amendment to the satcasting copyright bill.

The bill would rescind a ruling by the copyright office that hiked the copyright fees for satcasters from 6¢ per broadcast channel to 27¢. In contrast, cablers pay approximately 3¢. The next stop for the proposal is the full House commerce committee, but sources say it is unlikely that the bill has time to pass this congressional session.