Broadcasters are balking at a proposal by EchoStar Communications Corp.
chairman Charlie Ergen that purports to give network affiliates an incentive to
speed their transitions to digital television.
In a letter sent Oct. 24 to Federal Communications Commission chairman
Michael Powell, National Association of Broadcasters president Edward Fritts
said EchoStar's plan was designed to promote the interests of EchoStar, and not
the interests of the digital-TV transition.
'While there are many things the FCC can and should do to facilitate the
digital transition, entertaining Mr. Ergen's proposal is not one of them,'
Fritts said in a two-page letter.
With one-third of TV stations expected to miss a key digital-TV-transition
deadline next May, EchoStar proposed last month that the FCC show lenience
toward laggardly network affiliates only if they allow EchoStar to import
network signals from distant markets.
Under the Satellite Home Viewer Act, EchoStar is barred from offering distant
network signals to households served by local network affiliates. Ergen said if
the FCC linked deadline waivers to distant-signal relief, network affiliates
would have an incentive to protect their markets by completing their digital
build-outs as quickly as possible.
Fritts said some stations had good cause for missing the May deadline, and
they should be entitled to extensions due to circumstances beyond their
He added that some stations are running into delays caused by legal and
zoning disputes, and he said digital-TV stations in New York lost transmitters
when the terrorist attacks destroyed the World Trade Center Sept. 11.
'Yet in these and many other `beyond their control' situations, Mr. Ergen
would have the FCC use its authority to extract waivers of SHVA rights,' Fritts