Senators Issue Warning On DBS Deal


Washington -- A group of U.S. Senators from rural states clustered in the
Midwest is urging federal regulators to closely examine the merger between
EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes Electronics Corp.

The letter, sent to Attorney General John Ashcroft and Federal Communications

Commission chairman Michael Powell, was signed by 11 senators in all,
including Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa.).

The letter, provided by a television industry source, was undated but an aide

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), who signed the letter, said it was sent May 17.

Six Democrats and five Republicans signed it.

Even though the lawmakers asked for a close review, they did not recommend
its rejection.

Instead, they suggested that the $25.8 billion merger creating a direct
broadcast satellite giant with no serious rival in the skies could be approved
with appropriate conditions.

'We believe that enforced consumer safeguards regarding price, service

quality and access to vital communications services in rural America need to
be established before granting EchoStar and Hughes merger approval,' the
one-page letter said.

Because the merger will leave one DBS company, the senators said they were

concerned that consumers without the ability to turn to cable and phone

companies for video and data could face 'monopolistic practices.'

The letter urged Ashcroft and Powell to ensure that 'millions of rural
consumers do

not suffer the consequences of higher prices, fewer choices and reduced