EchoStar Communications Corp. Monday defended its practice of requiring
consumers to use a second satellite dish to access some local broadcast channels
in 36 markets.
Last Friday, the National Association of Broadcasters filed a petition with
the Federal Communications Corp., complaining that direct-broadcast satellite
subscribers should be able to access all broadcast channels delivered under the
recent must-carry ruling from a single home satellite dish.
In a statement issued Jan. 7, EchoStar said its recent addition of more than
250 local channels puts the company in compliance with the Satellite Home Viewer
Improvement Act's must-carry requirements. EchoStar added that because its first
two spot-beam satellites were delivered late, it was compelled to load some of
the local broadcast channels at alternate orbital locations, or else would have
had to pull the existing local channels entirely from at least some of the
'Our must-carry compliance program should please the NAB and its members,'
EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen said in the statement. 'The NAB said it wants
satellite TV providers to offer local channels to consumers in a greater number
of markets. They have also said they don't want consumers to lose local channels
in any markets where we currently serve.'
EchoStar plans to launch and test its first spot beam during the first
quarter. Until that happens, the burden is on EchoStar's Dish Network
subscribers to ask the company to install a second dish if they want to see
A Morgan Stanley report issued late last month suggested that well before
Dish installers catch up to the requests for second satellite dishes, the new
spot-beam satellites may be operational.
Customers with DBS rival DirecTV can access local channels in 41 markets
using a single satellite dish, although in a few markets, the dish required is
slightly larger than the service's standard 18-inch dish.
In pitching the benefits of the merger between EchoStar and DirecTV parent
Hughes Electronics Corp., Ergen noted that the combined company would be able to
deliver local broadcast channels from 100 markets.
Today, nearly all the local channel markets from DirecTV and EchoStar overlap.