Washington – EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen said his company is several years away from having satellite capacity to comply with a possible regulatory mandate to carry local TV signals in both high definition and standard definition digital formats, according to a Federal Communications Commission filing last week.
EchoStar is hoping that it won’t have to comply with new digital TV carriage mandates that the FCC under Republican chairman Kevin Martin is intending to adopt for cable operators, perhaps as early as the agency’s Sept. 11 open meeting.
“Today, we carry all the must carry stations in standard definition in 175 launched local markets, and will continue to do so after February 2009,” EchoStar explained in Aug. 31 filing at the FCC. “Dish Network will not, however, have the spectrum, satellites, or resources in February 2009 to provide all must carry digital signals in high definition. Designing and constructing new satellites – upon the availability of new spectrum – is a four or five year proposition,” EchoStar said.
The filing said Ergen last week met face-to-face with FCC members Michael Copps, Jonathan Adelstein, and Robert McDowell to express his concerns.
EchoStar’s reference to February 2009 is the congressionally required turn-off of all over-the-air analog signals by full-power TV stations licensed by the FCC. Stations will then go all digital, beaming SD and HD signals at the same time or separately, probably depending on the time of day.
Under federal law, Dish Network has to carry all local TV stations in a market if it elects to carry even one – also called the “carry one, carry all” requirement.
In its filing, EchoStar didn’t explain how its carry one, carry all obligations permit it to identify which stations in a market are “must carry” and which are not.
EchoStar also protested a proposed FCC rule that might require it to pass through all bits transmitted by a TV station, a policy which might ban the use of bandwidth-saving signal compression technologies.
“It would freeze innovation and cut off the use of future technologies critical to maximizing the efficient use of finite bandwidth,” EchoStar said.