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Phantom Signals to be a Ghost of Satellite Legislation

in Broadband Updates/Broadband's Impact by

The American Cable Association praised the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for recently passing bills that would change the rule allowing for redistribution of copyrighted content by cable television operators. ACA said the rule had been a financial burden on small and mid-sized cable operators, especially operators that have consolidated operations in the pursuit of greater efficiency.

The change took place as part of the review and renewal of the Satellite Home Viewer Act (SHVA) in separate votes September. SHVA became law in 1988 and allowed satellite providers to offer broadcast signals from New York and Los Angeles to consumers in rural and remote areas who could not pick up their local TV stations with an antenna. Absent a renewal, the right to retransmit distant signals expires on December 31, 2009.

The committees agreed to eliminate the "phantom signal" rule enforced by the U.S. Copyright Office. Under the rule, ACA members that have elected to consolidate their headends are required to pay copyright royalties on distant broadcast signals under a compensation formula that must include all system subscribers, including those who do not receive the programming, hence the name “phantom signal.”

"These bills are a good start," said ACA President Matthew Polka. "We appreciate that the House and Senate Judiciary committees have recognized that smaller, independent and rural-based cable operators should not be punished financially by a nonsensical phantom signal rule adopted many years ago when the communications market place then was vastly different from today."

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