Busy day for broadcasters

Radio stations already pay royalties to songwriters and publishers. Broadcasters are against the new royalty and say playing the songs on the radio give tremendous publicity to the artists who can reap revenues from touring, concerts and merchandise. The songwriters don't have those other avenues to make money, broadcasters say. Music labels argue the artists need to be compensated for their work. 

The House Judiciary Committee passed a companion bill in May. The National Association of Broadcasters sent a press release today saying that 251 House members and 26 Senators oppose the legislation. Arlen Specter (D-Penn.) said it may take a while for the bill to get to the floor, noting the lack of agreement.

2. The House Commerce Committee passed a bill that would allow low-power radio stations to operate within closer proximity to full-power radio stations, a measure public interest groups say will allow more low-power stations to crop up and provide more local content for communities. Under current law, low-power stations cannot operate within a certain distance of full-power stations to avoid interference. NAB says it's worried the legislation result in interference for all radio stations. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said he supports the bill despite his own "skepticism" largely because his friend Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Penn.) had worked so hard on the issue.

3. The House Commerce Committee also passed its version of the Satellite Home Viewer Extention Reauthorization Act to allow satellite service providers to carry local television stations to customers. The current law expires Dec. 31, so Congress has to move quickly.

The House bill passed with an amendment from Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that would force DISH Network to carry public broadcasting stations in high definition, something DirecTV already does. Eshoo said she's given the company ample time to negotiate with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and should no longer be allowed to "discriminate" against public broadcasting.

Satellite operators have requested being allowed to offer distant channels to customers. That would allow a customer in Vermont, for example, to receive New York City stations. NAB is adamently against that provision, which is not in the House version of the bill, because it would undermine local broadcasters in smaller markets. Satellite operators can, however, provide out-of-market signals to subscribers who cannot receive their local stations over the air. 

The Judiciary Committees also have jurisdiction over this legislation, so this is just one step in the process. Eventually, the four bills will have to be melded together.