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Reid: Nearly 1.5 Million Will Be Unable To Watch Local TV Because Of Senate Inaction

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UPDATED BELOW

It's bad enough that thanks to Senate inaction more than a million laid-off workers could lose their unemployment benefits and subsidized health insurance in March, but it gets worse: According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), nearly 1.5 million people will be unable to watch local TV stations starting Monday.

The package of extensions the Senate failed to pass included not just a 30-day extension of unemployment benefits, but also extensions of subsidized COBRA health insurance, flood insurance, small business loans, highway funding, and, apparently, a "satellite television extension" that allows people in rural areas to watch their local TV stations via satellite.

Reid said the bill's provisions are extremely important -- "Especially to those people who are unemployed and those who at midnight Sunday night will lose the ability, almost 1.5 million people in rural America, will no longer be able to watch local television."

According to MultiChannel news, because of the Senate's failure, "satellite operators will not be allowed to import distant affiliate TV station signals to viewers who cannot receive a viewable version of their local affiliate."

HuffPost has placed calls to satellite TV providers and will update this story as soon as more info becomes available.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), in the name of taking a stand against deficit spending, single-handedly prevented the Senate from proceeding to a vote on the extensions.

Bunning acknowledged rural satellite TV viewers in remarks on the Senate floor Friday morning. According to an unofficial Senate transcript, Bunning agreed "that everybody in this chamber wants to extend unemployment benefits, COBRA health care benefits, flood insurance, highway bill assistance, medical doc fix, small business loans, and rural satellite television for viewers that can't get cable or something."

UPDATE 3/1/2010:

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on Friday sent a letter urging satellite TV providers not to drop local channels and informing them that they would be "held harmless" for doing so.

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