News

Dish Averts STELA Carriage Mandate

8/02/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Washington — Dish Network has managed to avoid
the expedited noncommercial, high-definition stationcarriage
mandate in the newly reauthorized satellite
distant signal blanket license law by striking an independent
HD carriage deal with at least 30 noncommercial
stations, the company confirmed last week.

The satellite TV provider still plans to challenge the law
that forced it to strike that deal.

After a court rejected its request for a preliminary injunction
against the mandate, Dish faced a July 27 deadline
in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act
to strike its own, independent carriage deal with at least
30 noncommercial stations.

Otherwise, it could be subject to a mandate that it carry
all noncommercial stations in HD by the end of next year
rather than by 2013.

The latter date is the Federal Communications Commission
deadline, part of a phase-in plan for satellite HD carriage
for commercial and noncommercial stations alike.

Dish had tried to negotiate a blanket deal with the Association
of Public Television Stations (APTS), but had
failed to do so.

Last week’s deal was not with APTS, which represents
noncommercial stations nationwide, but does include a
geographically diverse group of stations, according to the
company, which had no comment on when that HD carriage
would begin.

The law only required that the deals be struck by July 27.

Dish filed the injunction three weeks ago in Nevada,
where it is incorporated, because it was facing a July 27
deadline for coming to carriage terms with 30 noncommercial
stations or triggering a speeded-up (by the end of
next year) timetable for carriage of all noncommercial signals
in any market where it carries any stations in HD.

Dish’s bone to pick is not with the FCC, which is required
to enforce the law, but with the legislation that
it argues tips the scales in favor of a particular type of
programming.

Dish has said that the mandate violates its First and
Fifth Amendment rights and has already put a crimp in
business plans it based on the 2008 FCC timetable for
phasing in HD carriage of all local TV stations, including
noncommercial stations, by 2013.

Dish will continue to push the constitutional challenge
to the law in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
It is challenging both the requirement that it do the 30-station
deal to avoid the mandate and the mandate itself.