Policy

EchoStar Gets 18 Months For Two Dishes

11/21/2004 7:00 PM Eastern

Washington— Lawmakers have reached agreement on legislation that would give EchoStar Communications Corp. just 18 months to ensure that consumers need only one dish to receive all local TV stations in a market.

The phase-out of EchoStar’s two-dish policy was contained in a bill extending the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act, which Congress is expected to pass before adjourning last weekend, according to two industry sources.

The satellite bill is expected to be included in a much larger spending measure that requires congressional approval to keep the federal government operating.

“That’s what staff has been told,” a Senate Commerce Committee spokesman said.

EchoStar offers local signals in about 150 markets, but customers in 38 markets need second dishes to view all of their local broadcasters.

The National Association of Broadcasters, branding the practice illegal and discriminatory, has made a two-dish ban a legislative priority. The NAB moved after the Federal Communications Commission refused to impose a two-dish ban.

EchoStar has said that complying with a two-dish ban within one year — as House-passed legislation would have required — would cost $100 million.

The legislation will allow EchoStar to use two dishes, but only if all local stations are resident on one dish. EchoStar may also offer all analog stations on one dish and all digital stations on another. An EchoStar spokesman declined to comment. DirecTV Inc. does not use two dishes in the same fashion.

March