Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Wednesday that he does not support allowing direct-broadcast satellite providers to require consumers to obtain two reception dishes in order to receive all local TV stations in a market.
“I believe that the Senate should prohibit discriminatory placement of certain stations on a second satellite, requiring subscribers to obtain a second dish to receive them,” Hatch said at a hearing on legislation that would renew the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act for another five years.
The National Association of Broadcasters is seeking legislation that would bar EchoStar Communications Corp. from employing a two-dish strategy. The NAB has complained that few consumers actually obtain second dishes because EchoStar has relegated Spanish-language and religious broadcasters to that location.
Hatch agreed that this was a problem. “I am particularly concerned that Spanish-language, religious and public broadcast stations have been singled out for this treatment,” he said.
House legislation would ban the two-dish option within one year.
EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen told reporters the House bill would cost his company $100 million in compliance costs. He said EchoStar subscribers were not demanding an end to the two-dish policy in the 42 markets where it is in effect. EchoStar provides second dishes free-of-charge.
“There are 250 million people in the country, and no one is complaining about two dishes,” Ergen said. “The political reality is that the NAB has the power. We don’t.”
After the hearing, Hatch told reporters he expects the committee to mark up SHVIA legislation in a few weeks.
The DBS industry’s license to sell distant network stations and superstations around the country expires Dec. 31, making SHVIA extension a priority for several million satellite subscribers.