If the borderline-pronounceable SHVERA is replaced, it will be by the STMA – the Satellite Television Modernization ACT. The key element of the bill, which is still in the committee process in Congress, will be to allow satellite TV providers to use out-of-market channels to fill out channel lineups in communities lacking the full slate of network affiliates.

Though ostensibly about satellite TV, the bill also addresses an issue of concern to the cable industry – so-called phantom signals.

Cable operators likewise transmit out-of-market channels for which they pay royalties, just like everyone else. The problem is the way the law compels cable to calculate royalties. In some instances, a cable operator must assume a signal is going to a system, even though it isn’t – that’s the phantom signal – and pay royalties based on the entire population of the systems involved, not the actual (smaller) number of viewers that are in fact getting the signal.

The cable industry lobbied for the provision, and was gratified to see it being included by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy. Sen. Jeff Sessions is also on the committee.

The NCTA released a statement, attributed to NCTA President and CEO Kyle McSlarrow, which said: “We applaud the leadership of Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions and their effort to gain committee approval of the Satellite Television Modernization Act. We strongly support the bill’s effort to promote continuity and to include important language that resolves the so-called ‘phantom signal’ issue. We greatly appreciate the committee’s support of the resolution, which is fair to both copyright owners and distributors, and look forward to working with the Senate and House to enact the Satellite Television Modernization Act into law this year.”

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