Senate unanimously approves House's satellite TV bill

The Senate has unanimously approved a House bill that enables satellite-based pay-TV operators to pipe in broadcast signals from distant network stations to rural areas that lack a network affiliate.

The Senate's passage Thursday of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR), approved by the House a day earlier, means 1.5 million U.S. homes subscribing to either DirecTV (NASDAQ: DTV) or Dish Network (NASDAQ: DISH) won't have one, several or all of the Big Four broadcast networks go dark when the current law expires Dec. 31, pending approval by President Obama.

A compromise against independently developed proposals put forth by the House and Senate, the bill arriving on the President's desk will include the controversial elimination of the Federal Communications Commission's integrated security set-top ban, which failed in its creator's seven-year quest to create a meaningful retail market for pay-TV set-top boxes.

Also included is a provision upholding the FCC's ban on joint retrans negotiations by broadcasters, who will have six months to unwind any such existing agreements after final passage of the bill.

"This important legislation will ensure that millions of satellite video consumers will continue to receive broadcast TV signals and will appropriately update our nation's video laws to better reflect the realities of today's robustly competitive video marketplace--a marketplace that grows almost daily with an ever expanding list of devices and services that put consumers in charge of deciding how to enjoy high-quality programming," reads a National Cable Telecommunications Association statement. 

For more:
- read this Multichannel News story

Related links:
House passes satellite reauthorization bill as key opponent says he won't stand in the way
House looks to reconcile STELA, STAVRA satellite bills, keep language on CableCard elimination
Senators look to kill STAVRA if CableCard language isn't taken out
Senate passes (relatively) clean STAVRA bill
Sen. McCaskill expected to abandon attempt to add pay-TV regulation to STAVRA
Broadcasters force further dilution of STAVRA
Verizon urges FCC to get rid of the set-top integrated security ban