EchoStar Communications Corp. and Allbritton Communications Co. Wednesday
settled their four-market local-TV-carriage dispute that left thousands of
satellite consumers without ABC news and primetime programming since
Jerald Fritz, Allbritton's senior vice president of legal and strategic
affairs, said the agreement was reached at 9 p.m. and the signals were restored
soon thereafter in Washington, D.C.; Harrisburg, Pa.; Birmingham, Ala.; and
As part of the agreement, EchoStar gained initial access to Allbritton's ABC
affiliate in the Roanoke-Lynchburg, Va., market. EchoStar also agreed to drop a
complaint at the Federal Communications Commission and a federal antitrust suit,
both of which were filed Monday.
EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin confirmed that a settlement had been reached
and the complaints dropped but declined to discuss specifics.
In a statement, Charlie Ergen, CEO and chairman of EchoStar, said: "We're
pleased that we were able to reach an agreement with Allbritton that allows us
to restore local ABC television programming to thousands of Dish Network
The dispute erupted when EchoStar refused to agree to Allbritton's demand
that the direct-broadcast satellite carrier stop importing distant network
signals into its markets, which EchoStar is permitted to do legally for a small
segment of homes.
Network affiliates fear that out-of-town network signals offered to
ineligible subscribers in time will siphon off viewers and erode advertising
Fritz said he could not comment on whether the importation issue was part of
"I can say this: We are in a substantially better position than we were under
the previous agreements," he added.
EchoStar also wanted Allbritton to withdraw from a federal lawsuit in Miami
that could result in EchoStar's having to stop the retransmission of local
broadcast signals nationwide, Fritz said.
"I can say we did not settle the Miami litigation, despite great pressure
from EchoStar to do so," he added.
Lumpkin said the Miami case was not at issue in the Allbritton talks.
"The settlement of the Miami case was never a condition EchoStar required. Rather, we were concerned about protecting our customers' legal rights to distant network signals where they were not served by the local network," he added.