FCC Probing DBS Program Exclusivity - Multichannel

FCC Probing DBS Program Exclusivity

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The Federal Communications Commission is seeking comment on whether an
exclusive programming contract between a direct-broadcast satellite carrier and
commercial program network can be used to block the DBS carrier from carrying a
nonprofit program network offering similar programming.

A petition for ruling from the FCC was filed by Daystar Television Network, a
nonprofit religious programmer that had obtained channel space from EchoStar
Communications Corp. Under FCC rules, EchoStar must set aside up to 4% of its
channels for Daystar and other nonprofit programmers offering educational and
informational services.

However, Dominion Video Services Inc. -- a for-profit religious programmer
with an exclusive contract with EchoStar -- prevailed in court when a state
judge in Colorado upheld Dominion's exclusivity against Daystar.

The judge ordered EchoStar to drop Daystar. The court decision has been
stayed, an FCC source said.

The FCC source said Daystar is questioning whether its inability to retain
carriage on EchoStar violates the DBS carrier's public-interest-programming
obligations under the 4% set-aside.

The source said the agency has to decide, among other things, whether
exclusive deals could effectively nullify the DBS set-aside program given the
fact that the FCC allows DBS carriers to occupy set-aside channels with
commercial networks if public-interest programmers fail to use the entire
4%.

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