A federal judge in Miami has agreed with CBS and Fox that EchoStar
Communications Corp. sold copyright-protected network programming to ineligible
customers, but the judge did not issue the so-called death penalty that would
have required EchoStar to terminate retransmission of local TV stations
nationwide, sources said Wednesday.
U.S. Judge William P. Dimitrouleas issued his decision late Tuesday
afternoon, marking another key event in a multiyear legal battle between
EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen and CBS, Fox and hundreds of network affiliates.
The impact of the ruling was not immediately clear. However, it appeared that
Dimitrouleas has issued orders to EchoStar that will likely require the company
to terminate distant-network-signal service to thousands of subscribers.
Those who are cut off would be eligible to buy a local-TV-signal package from
EchoStar, assuming that they live in one of the 64 local markets the
direct-broadcast satellite provider currently serves.
EchoStar was expected to release a statement Wednesday.
The National Association of Broadcasters was not a party in the case, but
many of its member stations were. DirecTV Inc. dropped out of the case after
settling with broadcasters.
An NAB spokesman was not immediately available for comment.