The House approved legislation Oct. 6 that allows DirecTV, EchoStar and other satellite TV companies to rebroadcast network programming.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- The House approved legislation Oct. 6 that allows DirecTV, EchoStar and other satellite TV companies to rebroadcast network programming.

The bill now goes to the Senate. The Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees have approved similar legislation. The Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act must be renewed this year or satellite TV companies will lose their right to retransmit broadcast TV signals.

It is unclear how fast the Senate will act, as its bill includes language that makes it easier for satellite TV companies to import a digital TV signal into the so-called "digital white area" -- locations where customers are unable to view it over the air. Language in the House bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to examine the "white area" phenomenon and report back to Congress its results.

On a voice vote, the House approved a compromise that raises the amount of money copyright holders will receive for their programming and that forces EchoStar to carry all stations in a local market onto one dish within a year.

EchoStar uses two dishes to transmit programming. Broadcasters carried on the "wing" satellites argue that it unfairly handicaps them since fewer people bother to purchase the second dish. Lawmakers contend that this is especially unfair to local Spanish-language stations.

The bill also allows satellite TV companies to beam programming from one nearby market into another if they are viewed by a significant number of people in both towns.

Under the legislation, copyright-royalty rates will increase at the beginning of next year. The bill also includes language that requires the FCC to study whether the cable and satellite TV industries should fall under the same copyright payment regime.

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