EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman and CEO Charlie
Ergen visited Washington, D.C., last week to drum up support for its
Ergen gave reporters an on-air demonstration of
EchoStar's digital local channels, which are integrated into the programming guide of
the Dish Network's direct-broadcast satellite service. Washington was among the first
six markets chosen for the local service, which also launched last month in New York,
Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.
Despite making the lobbying trip, Ergen maintained that his
business plan was not contingent on congressional or Copyright Office help to make his
local-TV-signal foray a viable business.
Were Ergen to win approval from the Copyright Office later
this year to deliver local signals throughout a local market not just to
'unserved' homes, he would be able to invade core cable markets without any
must-carry or retransmission-consent obligations. In that case, the cable and broadcast
industries would have to get a law passed to remove DBS' exemption from must-carry
and retransmission consent.
The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association,
which represents EchoStar and its DBS competitors, supported the right of DBS companies to
deliver a local-into-local service. But as of last Thursday, the SBCA did not know whether
it would file comments with the Copyright Office to help clarify the law.
'We don't think that we have the resources to do
it,' said vice president of government affairs Andy Paul. 'We're focusing
Ergen criticized the SBCA for not backing EchoStar's
local-into-local plans more directly.
'Their policy is not to go out and support things
where only one of the four players has a vested interest,' he said.
A staunch rival of cable, Ergen suggested that PrimeStar
Partners L.P.'s role in the DBS industry may be clouding the industry's agenda.