Direct-broadcast satellite carriers may carry local TV stations a la
carte, the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday in an order designed
to clarify previously adopted local-TV-station-carriage rules as the DBS
industry prepares for full must-carry rules starting in January.
In another important ruling addressing a recent controversy, the FCC said DBS
carriers are not entitled to summarily reject must-carry requests by local TV
In the unanimous ruling, the FCC said DBS carriers had to have a reasonable
basis for rejecting must-carry requests, and they were barred from requiring
that TV stations demonstrate at the outset that they are entitled to
The FCC's second holding came in response to EchoStar Communications Corp's
recent decision to reject hundreds of must-carry requests on the basis that TV
stations failed to demonstrate that they could deliver good-quality signals to
EchoStar's local-signal-reception facility.
The FCC decision was contained in a two-page press
release. The full order,
which reaffirmed the agency's earlier decision on a la carte issues, was expected to be available later
In the a la carte decision, the commission said DBS carriers had to provide
all local stations a la carte or as one package. DBS operators can
make both options available to subscribers.
On Jan. 1, DBS carriers are required to carry, upon request, all local TV
stations in markets where they carry even one local TV station, sometimes called
the 'carry one, carry all mandate.'
The DBS industry is fighting the constitutionality of that regime. Oral
arguments in the case are scheduled to be heard Sept. 25 before a panel of the
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Va.
As part of that appeal, the National Association of Broadcasters is asking
the court to overturn the FCC's a la carte carriage policies.
In the press release, the commission said the a la carte
decision was consistent with law and with promoting consumer