Two Federal Communications Commission members -- one a Republican and the
other a Democrat -- teamed up Wednesday to criticize last week's staff ruling on
EchoStar Communications Corp.'s broad reliance on two dishes to receive local TV
The FCC's Media Bureau ruled last week that EchoStar violated federal law by
requiring consumers in about 30 markets to obtain free second dishes in order to
receive some, but not all, local TV signals.
But in a lengthy joint statement, Republican FCC member Kevin Martin and
Democratic commissioner Michael Copps rebuked the bureau for giving EchoStar a
remedy option that they said would not bring the company's two-dish plan into
compliance with the law.
The bureau said EchoStar could comply with the law by immediately contacting
all affected local TV subscribers and offering to provide free second
But Martin and Copps said the bureau's remedy was an insufficient step
because it would not eliminate price discrimination banned by the law.
The two commissioners added that consumers would still have to shoulder the
'costs' of arranging for the installation of second dishes and waiting at home
for installers to arrive.
'Such a `remedy' effectively eviscerates the finding that EchoStar's current
policy is unlawful,' Martin and Copps said. 'Such a `remedy' does not ensure
that consumers have access to all local broadcast stations [in] a
nondiscriminatory manner, but rather makes some stations unavailable to
consumers as a practical matter.'
The FCC members also questioned whether the bureau had the legal authority to
fashion a remedy that left in place conduct contrary to law.
On the surface, the statement represented a public scolding of sorts of Media
Bureau chief Kenneth Ferree. He signed the decision after consulting with
chairman Michael Powell's office, an FCC source said.
EchoStar said the two-dish plan was an interim step until new satellites were
in service. The National Association of Broadcasters filed a complaint with the
FCC alleging that the two-dish plan was illegal.
EchoStar said last week that it was taking action to comply with the bureau's
order. DirecTV Inc. offers local TV signals on a single dish, and it was not
involved in the NAB-EchoStar dispute.
An FCC source said the Martin-Copps statement would not affect Ferree's
ruling. However, the two commissioners could help to overturn it if either
EchoStar or the NAB were to appeal the ruling to the four FCC