EchoStar, Disney Trade Barbs


EchoStar Communications Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. lobbed several verbal
barbs at each other Wednesday as their contentious dispute over carriage and
licensing-fee issues grew hotter.

In a tersely written statement, EchoStar -- responding to a U.S. District
Court judge's decision Monday to grant Disney's request for a temporary
restraining order that has barred the direct-broadcast satellite provider from
dropping ABC Family -- said it wants to protect its customers from 'a giant
media conglomerate' that has imposed rate increases well beyond the rate of

EchoStar had planned to drop both ABC Family and ESPN Classic from its Dish
Network Jan. 1 due to Disney's decision to raise rates for both networks.

While the DBS service punted on the vintage-sports-programming service, Judge
Gary Allen Feess of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of
California granted Disney's restraining order, which will keep ABC Family on
EchoStar through Jan. 10.

EchoStar said it will not pay Disney 'hush money' in the form of higher
licensing fees for the networks in return for Disney's support of its proposed
merger with DirecTV Inc., which the conglomerate has threatened to oppose.

'If the price for Disney's support of our pending merger comes at the cost of
increased, double-digit rate hikes for our customers, then we must forgo their
support,' EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen said.

'We are confident that we are within our rights to cancel ESPN Classic and
await a judge's ruling before making a final decision to discontinue carriage of
ABC Family,' he added.

ESPN shot back at EchoStar, saying the DBS provider rebuffed 'numerous
compelling proposals' over months of 'fruitless' negotiations.

'EchoStar's action is a huge disservice to its consumers,' ESPN president
George Bodenheimer said in a prepared statement. 'This diminishes EchoStar's
offerings, and it appears that EchoStar is pursuing other goals at the expense
of its current and future subscribers and the overall quality of its
programming-distribution service.'