FCC Moves On DBS-Signal Dispute


Washington -- The Federal Communications Commission on
Tuesday launched a rulemaking to better identify who is eligible to receive distant
network TV signals via satellite.

The FCC is under pressure to complete the rulemaking by Feb. 28, 1999 when, under a court
injunction, an estimated 700,000 to 1 million dish owners will lose their networks feeds
as a result of copyright infringement cases temporarily won by broadcasters.

In a press release, the FCC said up front that it did not "appear to have statutory
authority under the [Satellite Home Viewer Act] to prevent most of the subscribers
involved in the court cases from losing service."

Under copyright law, a residential dish owner that cannot receive a local network signal
of Grade B intensity -- a measurement of signal strength defined by the FCC -- is eligible
to buy distant networks.

DBS companies have complained that the Grade B test is unfair because reception of an
off-air signal of Grade B intensity is a not a guarantee that a clear image will be
displayed on TV screens.