Subcommittee Reviews Proposal to Ensure Rural Access to Satellite Television

Feb 9, 2000

Washington, DC — Today, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry, led by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) reviewed a proposal that would extend loan guarantees to companies willing to provide rural communities with access to local television via satellite.

"Rural consumers will benefit from local news, sports, politics, and other information that is vital to communities across the country," Goodlatte said.  "Furthermore, local television is often the only lifeline rural communities have in cases of natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods."

Local TV via satellite is already available to satellite subscribers in America's twenty largest television markets.  In these markets, the existing satellite "platform providers" have begun retransmission of local network affiliates.  They have also announced their intention to begin retransmission of local TV stations in an additional twenty or thirty television markets over the next two years.

Nevertheless, there will still be at least 160 unserved markets in the United States, depriving more than fifty percent of existing satellite subscribers (over six million households) of their local TV stations.  More than sixty percent of existing commercial television stations will not be available; and more than thirty million households will remain beyond the reach of local television via satellite.  If nothing is done, local TV via satellite will not be available in twenty-seven states and in parts of nearly every state.

Chairman Goodlatte intends to introduce legislation in the very near future which would authorize the U.S. Department of Agriculture to guarantee up to $1.25 billion in loans for providing local broadcast signals to rural areas.  In addition, providers may offer other services, such as internet access, if they have excess capacity.  This legislation will be similar to legislative language removed from last year's Satellite Home Viewer Act (HR 1554).

"Over 240 Members of the House have expressed support for this type of legislation," Goodlatte said.  "They believe as I do, that rural Americans shouldn't be left behind as technology brings the rest of the world closer.  These loan guarantees will be a practical solution to this issue, and I expect that this legislation will move quickly through Congress."