Can Congress save TV?

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Unless Congress acts, more than a million satellite TV subscribers could turn on their TV in a year and miss out on news, hit shows and sporting events.

On Dec 31, the law allowing satellite television companies like Dish and DirecTV to carry out-of-market broadcast channels to many rural customers expires. Unless Congress takes action, that means some subscribers won’t be able to watch ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox as of 2015. And it’s no sure thing Congress will act. While renewing the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) is one of the few must-pass bills of 2014, many observers expect it to become entangled in larger fights between cable, satellite and broadcast providers. A deadlock might make a short-term extension of the law the only way out.

“You know, I suppose there’s always a possibility, like there is around here, that you get some sort of a short-term extension until we get a chance to do a more complete process with it, but we’ll see,” said Sen John Thune (R-SD) of the Senate Commerce Committee. “The goal is to try and get it done.”

The law allows satellite providers to import broadcast signals to an estimated 1.5 million rural consumers who are unable to pick up the broadcasts on their own. The legal authority for the companies to provide local broadcast channels to people who would otherwise be able to pick them up with an antenna does not expire.

[March 10]

Can Congress save TV?