EchoStar Communications Corp. would have one year to offer a local market’s TV stations on a single dish under a bill unanimously approved by a House subcommittee Wednesday.
The direct-broadcast satellite provider opposed the provision, saying that it would force it to retreat from about 40 markets that it currently serves and block it from entering 40 more later this year.
However, aides to House Telecommunications and the Internet Subcommittee chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said they had independent evidence that EchoStar could adjust to a one-dish rule without difficulty.
EchoStar’s chief rival, DirecTV Inc., does not use two dishes for local TV service.
Lawmakers complained that EchoStar's two-dish policy relegated religious and Spanish-language TV stations to the second dish and left those stations with fewer viewers.
However, EchoStar said it makes the second dishes available free-of-charge to help overcome consumer reluctance to install them to obtain just a few local stations.
The bill would allow the use of two dishes provided that all local TV signals were aggregated on only one of them.
The legislation is the reauthorization of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999, which, for the first time, allowed DBS carriers to retransmit local TV stations within their home markets.
Upton said he expects the full Energy and Commerce Committee to take up the bill within a few weeks.