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-- SBCA President Chuck Hewitt Acknowledges Benefits and Shortcomings of Legislative Compromise and  Vows Commitment to Improve Competition --

ALEXANDRIA, VA, NOVEMBER 19, 1999 – Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association (SBCA)  President Chuck Hewitt issued the following statement on the final passage of Satellite Home Viewer Act reauthorization legislation:

“For three years, the satellite television industry and the SBCA, backed by over one million satellite television consumers who have called, written and visited their Members of Congress, have been fighting for legislation that would enable the satellite industry to become more competitive with the cable monopoly.  Congress has now passed legislation that contains many of the building blocks our industry needs to bring to consumers a more competitive video marketplace.

“One of the most important features of the new legislation enables Direct Broadcast

Satellite service providers (“DBS”) to retransmit to subscribers local television broadcast stations

within their service areas - so-called local-into-local service.  This will allow the satellite industry to deliver to its subscribers the same local broadcast programming that cable subscribers receive.  In many metropolitan areas, therefore, satellite carriers will be offering local television channels in addition to the high quality digital video and audio programming which is already part of their service. 

“The DBS satellite service is the fastest growing product line in the history of consumer electronics.  Since its inception in 1994, DBS now has over 10 million subscribers across the United States and is growing at a rate of approximately 250,000 subscribers per month.  The new bill should have a significant impact on increasing the consumer acceptance of such a popular video distribution service and will help to foster further competition to the cable industry.

“The bill also incorporates other provisions which will allow the satellite television industry to bring increased program choices to consumers.  It renews the satellite copyright license for five more years; reduces copyright fees by 30% for superstations and 45% for distant network signals; and protects Grade B subscribers who receive distant network signals by satellite, including those who lost service because of court orders.

“Future improvements should be made to the legislation, however.  Additional provisions must still be enacted in order for consumers - especially those in small and rural markets - to enjoy the full benefits of competition.

“We recognize that legislation is often the result of compromise, and this bill is no exception.  Many of the bill’s provisions have been adopted at the insistence of the broadcasters and are not necessarily in the best interests of consumers.  Therefore, the broadcasters should be made accountable if consumers do not quickly enjoy the benefits of competition, especially with regard to the reception of both local and distant broadcast programming.  Specifically, broadcasters should be held responsible for the following:

1.   The ability of local-into-local providers to obtain retransmission

consent from broadcasters in a fair and timely fashion;

2.   Recognition of the need for an improved signal viewing standard so that all satellite consumers in unserved households can receive the distant network programming they are entitled to.

3.   Aiding to enact legislative provisions relating to the delivery of local-into-local signals to small and rural markets in early 2000 so that consumers in these markets can have access to local broadcast signals just as urban viewers will.

“Consumers will be the ultimate judge of the success of this bill.  SBCA is committed to monitoring how well this legislation operates in the marketplace, and when Congress returns early next year, SBCA will continue the fight to improve competition.  We intend to see that the needs of any consumers who do not benefit from the current legislation are fully met.

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. The SBCA is composed of DBS service providers, programmers, equipment manufacturers, distributors, retailers, encryption vendors, and national and regional distribution companies.