EchoStar: One-Dish Deadline Met


EchoStar Communications Corp. said Wednesday that it has met the federally mandated June 8 deadline to ensure that consumers may receive their local TV signals on a single reception dish.

In December 2004, Congress passed a law giving EchoStar just 18 months to end the practice of requiring consumers to obtain second dishes in order to view all analog local TV signals.

The Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004, also called the W. J. (Billy) Tauzin Satellite Television Act of 2004, didn’t ban a second dish if all analog local TV signals could be received on the second dish. Instead, the law banned splitting up local TV signals so that more that one dish was needed.

Regarding digital signals, the 2004 satellite law allowed EchoStar and DirecTV Inc. to require a second dish to receive all local digital-TV signals. It need not be the same dish used to receive analog local TV signals.

“We did meet the deadline,” EchoStar spokesman Kathie Gonzalez said.

EchoStar -- the No. 2 direct-broadcast satellite provider, with 12.2 million subscribers -- had about 37 two-dish markets. DirecTV didn’t have any.

While Congress debated the bill, EchoStar claimed that complying with a one-dish rule within one year would cost about $100 million. Congress decided to tack on another six months to accommodate EchoStar’s concerns.

Before passage of the SHERVA, several TV-station groups filed complaints with the Federal Communications Commission, alleging that EchoStar’s two-dish policy violated the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999.

On Wednesday, EchoStar told the FCC in a filing that it had complied with the one-dish rule and asked that pending complaints be dismissed as moot.

“EchoStar is happy to report that as of June 1, 2006, it has transitioned all two-dish local markets to a same-dish offering, primarily by use of its newly launched EchoStar 10 spot-beam satellite,” the company said.

“As a result, all EchoStar subscribers are now receiving (and will be able to continue to receive) all of their local stations using the same dish, in accordance with the one-dish requirements under the SHVERA,” the company added.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which lobbied for the one-dish rule, is planning to verify EchoStar’s claims. “We’ll be very interested in reviewing the EchoStar filing,” NAB spokesman Dennis Wharton said.