Courts

High Court Won’t Grant Dish Stay

8/22/2006 9:41 AM Eastern

The U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday refused to stay a lower-court order that said EchoStar Communications’ Dish Network must stop offering signals of TV stations to hundreds of thousands of subscribers outside of those stations’ home markets.

EchoStar lost its bid for an emergency appeal to delay imposition of a ruling coming out of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with Justice Clarence Thomas.

The company sought the stay so that it could continue offering the so-called distant signals until after the Supreme Court decides whether to hear a full appeal on the legal issues in the case. An 11th Circuit panel ruled in May that Dish was illegally providing local TV stations -- from broadcasters such as ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox -- to at least 630,000 homes from markets outside of their own.

The 11th Circuit panel also ordered a lower court to issue a permanent injunction barring EchoStar from offering those distant network signals.

“This morning, EchoStar received a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court denying our stay request pending review of a petition for certiorari,” EchoStar said in a prepared statement. “Since the U.S. Supreme Court grants stays in only a very small percentage of the cases it reviews, denial of EchoStar’s stay request today was not unexpected.”

The ongoing dispute stems from a 1998 suit that the Big Four broadcast networks and their affiliate organizations brought against EchoStar for making out-of-market TV signals available to homes that can watch their own local stations through rooftop antennas. ABC, CBS and NBC have settled with EchoStar since the suit was brought, but the four affiliate associations and Fox remain plaintiffs.

Wall Street analysts have said that EchoStar will have to reach settlements with broadcasters so that it isn’t forced to drop its distant signal offerings.

“Less than 10% of EchoStar’s subscribers would be impacted, but we will continue to explore every possible option available to avoid unnecessary disruption to our customers who watch distant network channels,” EchoStar said in its statement. “We have settled with hundreds of stations and station groups over the eight-and-a-half years this case has been winding its way through the court system, and we continue to negotiate with the broadcasters who have not yet settled.”

EchoStar hasn’t reached an agreement with Fox, which is owned by News Corp., which has a stake in DirecTV, Dish’s competitor.

EchoStar has to file its appeal with the Supreme Court challenging the anti-distant-signal court rulings by Oct. 17, so the high court could not take any action on that appeal on the merits until this fall.

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