The fray between the satellite and broadcast industries
over distant-network-signal delivery escalated last week, as word spread of a lawsuit
filed against EchoStar Communications Corp. by the four major television networks.
ABC Inc., CBS Television Network, National Broadcasting
Co., Fox Broadcasting Co. and their affiliates filed the copyright-infringement suit in a
U.S. District Court in Miami Nov. 6, claiming that EchoStar "repeatedly and
willfully" sold network programming to ineligible customers, in violation of the
Satellite Home Viewer Act.
Under the SHVA, only satellite-dish owners in so-called
unserved households are eligible for distant-network feeds. An unserved household is
defined as one that has not received local-network signals by cable in the past 90 days,
and that cannot receive local signals of a grade-B intensity through the use of a
conventional rooftop antenna.
"We're confident that we will show that many
EchoStar subscribers can receive over-the-air network signals in a fashion that renders
them ineligible for satellite-network service under the Satellite Home Viewer Act,"
said Julie Hoover, a spokeswoman for ABC.
To date, there has been no cross-industry solution for
determining which households are eligible for distant-network feeds.
In the suit, the broadcasters ask that EchoStar conduct a
signal-intensity test or obtain consent from each local broadcaster before sending the
signals to customers within an affiliate's local market.