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ALEXANDRIA, VA, Nov. 1, 1999 -- The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association today issued the following statement:

SBCA is alarmed and disappointed by the course that the new satellite TV legislation is taking. While the bill currently being considered by a House-Senate Conference Committee offers the satellite TV industry some new opportunities, we are concerned that in the name of creating competition to cable, Congress will be bowing to pressure from the broadcasters. Instead of providing more programming choices, the bill will actually restrict programming choices currently available to millions of consumers by depriving them of superstations, sporting events and distant network signals.

Provisions that go against competition for consumers include:

  • The lack of a retransmission consent phase-in period will prevent satellite companies from immediately providing the very local-into-local network service Congress is seeking to facilitate. Additionally, language that might prevent price and carriage discrimination by networks in negotiations with satellite carriers has been so weakened that local-into-local service via satellite is in jeopardy. Thus, while the draft authorizes the industry to offer local-into-local service, in reality it severely restricts the industry’s ability to do so.
  • Limits on the number of distant network signals consumers may receive will result in hundreds of thousands of consumers losing service they enjoy under current law.
  • The imposition of blackout rules will cause millions of consumers to lose access to programming they currently enjoy, as well as undermine the expectations of consumers who assume they will get the full benefit of local broadcast programming.
  • Though it directs the Federal Communications Commission to develop a new signal reception standard for determining consumer eligibility for distant network signals, the legislation "handcuffs" the FCC from establishing a new standard that would be of real value to consumers by adding a three percent "cap" on the number of new consumers who will become eligible regardless of the rulemaking results.
  • Rural viewers will be especially hard hit because of the limitation on distant network signal eligibility. In addition, provisions in the bill are not strong enough to permit the development of local-into-local service in rural areas. Therefore, if consumers cannot get distant network signals, they will be limited to their local cable operators, if available - - which hardly bodes well for competition.

The satellite industry has long fought to keep the focus of legislation on protecting its more than 12 million subscriber households and the millions more potential satellite subscribers from facing disadvantage and lack of real competition in a video marketplace dominated by the cable monopoly. It is now clear that not only the satellite industry, but the American consumer, has become overwhelmed by the political power of one special interest -- the broadcast industry. Consumers will be rightfully shocked and disappointed when they discover that not only will their programming choices be limited but that they will also lose programming they currently enjoy. Consumers faced with these provisions will justifiably say:

"Congress says publicly that they want me to have local-into-local service, but because they want to ensure that the broadcasters make maximum profits, they made rules that may prevent local-into-local service from becoming available in my neighborhood."

"Congress says that as soon as local-into-local service becomes available in my market I have to give up distant network signals I already enjoy – whether or not I choose to subscribe to local-into-local service."

"Why has Congress prevented me from enjoying the same local programming on satellite that my neighbor gets from his over-the-air antenna?"

"Congress offers me a new standard to determine if I’m eligible for distant network signals, but because they want to first protect the broadcasters, they won’t let me have the signals even though I qualify under the new standard."

SBCA and its members urge Congress and the House-Senate conferees to reconsider the current direction of the bill. There is still time for Congress to take the right stand and act quickly to provide American consumers with the competitive video choice they deserve.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association of America (SBCA) is the national trade organization representing all segments of the home satellite industry. It is committed to expanding the utilization of satellite technology for the broadcast delivery of entertainment, news, information and educational programming.