SBCA: One-Dish Rule Could Hurt 1M - Multichannel

SBCA: One-Dish Rule Could Hurt 1M

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EchoStar Communications Corp. would likely cut off 1 million subscribers from
local TV signals if federal regulators adopt a rule advocated by the
local-TV-station industry, a satellite trade group said Wednesday.

EchoStar is offering local TV signals in 36 markets, but subscribers in 30 of
them need second dishes to receive all stations.

The National Association of Broadcasters and the Association of Local
Television Stations (ALTV) have asked the Federal Communications Commission to
impose a one-dish rule, claiming that EchoStar's second-dish option is
discriminatory.

The Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, which represents
direct-broadcast satellite carriers, said the NAB-ALTV plan would require
EchoStar to stop serving some local markets in order to provide consumers in the
remaining markets a one-dish solution for local TV signals.

'Were the [FCC] to adopt the broadcasters' proposal, EchoStar would be forced
to deny local broadcast service to up to 1 million subscribers,' the SBCA said.
EchoStar has some 6.4 million subscribers.

In its own comments opposing the NAB-ALTV plan, EchoStar confirmed that
'many' markets would lose service, affecting up to 1 million subscribers.

As a result, the SBCA said, the NAB's and ALTV's one dish-rule requirement
would 'boomerang' on their members.

The trade group noted that the NAB is opposing EchoStar's merger with Hughes
Electronics Corp., corporate parent of DBS carrier DirecTV Inc.

Starting Jan. 1, EchoStar and DirecTV were required to carry all requesting
local TV stations in markets where they carried any local TV stations.

Although DirecTV provided a one-dish solution, EchoStar largely required two
dishes, claiming that spot-beam satellites needed for a one-dish solution were
not delivered in time.

The NAB and ALTV want the FCC to clarify its rules to ensure that DBS
carriers may not require second dishes to receive some, but not all, local TV
signals, regardless if the equipment is provided free-of-charge.

In their comments, the NAB and ALTV said EchoStar should respond to an FCC
one-dish mandate not by cutting off service entirely in some markets, but by
seeking a 'limited and temporary waiver' from the from the carry-one, carry-all
mandate until its spot-beam satellites are operational.

EchoStar said the FCC lacks the legal authority to ban free second dishes,
and the agency should not change rules that the company relied upon to comply
with full must-carry requirements.

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