Dish Dodges Bullet In Miami

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A federal judge in Miami, Fla., last week refused to bow to broadcaster pressure and ruled that EchoStar Communications Corp. may continue to provide local TV signals and distant networks signals to eligible satellite customers.

But EchoStar has to cut off within a few months hundreds of thousands of Dish Network customers who currently pay to receive packages of out-of-market signals from CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox.

Hundreds of local TV stations joined the case, protecting their audiences and ad revenue from defections to distant-network signals.

Broadcasters said they were pleased, while EchoStar was happy the court didn't shut down EchoStar's distant-signal rebroadcasts.

The court could have blocked EchoStar's retransmission of any local TV station, a potentially crippling blow. But U.S. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas determined that EchoStar today is taking "reasonable steps" to ban reception of distant network signals by ineligible customers.

He also noted that EchoStar had paid $40 million in copyright royalties.

EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin said the company estimated the ruling would affect at worst up to 800,000 subscribers, but not all in the same manner. Some customers might lose some network signals, though not all, he said.

EchoStar makes distant network feeds available à la carte.

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