EchoStar Seeking Adelphia Conditions

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EchoStar Communications Corp. is seeking from the Federal Communications Commission a host of programming restrictions on Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable in connection with the two MSOs’ takeover of Adelphia Communications Corp.

Comcast and Time Warner have agreed to pay $17.6 billion for bankrupt Adelphia, but critics of the deal say the two MSOs will end up with excessive market power in many of the largest U.S. cities.

The acquisition partners have said the clustering of cable systems will make them more efficient in competing with national satellite providers and regional phone carriers like Verizon Communications Inc. and AT&T Inc.

In a Dec. 23 filing, EchoStar asked that in any decision approving the Adelphia merger, the FCC ban Comcast and Time Warner from offering affiliated “programming services,” including linear channels and subscription VOD services, on an exclusive basis to any pay TV distributor. Nor should the two MSOs be allowed to create terms and conditions that effectively deny programming to satellite companies, EchoStar added.

Resolution of program-access disputes should be resolved by compulsory arbitration with a right of appeal to the FCC. EchoStar claimed its merger conditions were akin to the condition imposed on News Corp.’s takeover of DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics Corp. in late 2003.

EchoStar, with 11.71 million video subscribers, is the No. 2 satellite TV provider in the U.S.

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