NAB to Oppose EchoStar-DirecTV


The National Association of Broadcasters is planning to use a Dec. 4 House
hearing to outline its opposition to the $25.8 billion merger between EchoStar
Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc.

'EchoStar has a history of challenging congressional mandates, ignoring
[Federal Communications Commission] rules and bad-faith business dealings, all
to the detriment of consumers. The burden is on EchoStar to explain how America
will benefit by combining the only two satellite companies that compete with
cable,' NAB president Edward Fritts said in a statement Wednesday.

NAB TV-board vice chairman Michael Fiorile, president and CEO of Dispatch
Broadcast Group, is planning to testify against the merger Tuesday at a hearing
being held by the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.

The NAB and EchoStar have been odds for years in the courts, on Capitol Hill
and at the FCC. The disputes have centered on satellite carriage of distant
network signals, full carriage of local TV signals and payments by
direct-broadcast satellite providers to carry local TV signals.

Both the NAB and EchoStar are awaiting a decision by the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on whether DBS carriers are required to carry all
local TV stations in markets where they elect to carry any local TV stations
after Jan. 1.

The merger, announced Oct. 29, requires the approval of the Department of
Justice and the FCC.

In his statement, Fritts touched on the anti-competitive concerns some have
raised about a merger that would reduce the DBS market from two major players to
just one.

Fritts said if the merger were approved, it 'would create the world's largest
monopoly video-delivery system.'

The NAB represents hundreds of local TV stations, many of them the affiliates
of the major broadcast networks. However, only ABC is an NAB member. NBC, Fox,
and CBS pulled out of the organization in recent years over regulatory

EchoStar and DirecTV combined would serve at least 14.9 million subscribers.
EchoStar chairman and CEO Charlie Ergen has said the combination is necessary to
allow DBS to fully compete against the dominant cable