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Mar 26, 2003  •  Post A Comment

EchoStar’s Lawsuit Thrown Out

A federal district court judge in Florida today threw out EchoStar’s claims that broadcasters had conspired anticompetitively to interfere with the satellite TV company’s business. EchoStar originally filed the claims in response to a 1998 lawsuit by broadcasters alleging that the satellite TV company was violating the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act by providing distant signals to subscribers already served by local broadcast stations.

Still at issue in the case is whether EchoStar’s actions ran afoul of the Satellite Act. The case is slated to go to trial during the week of April 8.

Investigation Request for Comcast: Watchdog groups asked the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission Wednesday to investigate whether Comcast and other cable TV companies are running afoul of antitrust laws by offering sharp discounts to high-speed Internet customers who also subscribe to cable.

Consumers Union and the Consumer Federation of America told the federal agencies that Comcast is raising the monthly fee for high-speed Internet service from $46 to $60 for customers in some markets unless they also sign up for the company’s cable TV.

Sarah Eder, a Comcast spokesperson, said the company’s discounts and pricing policies conformed to industry norms. “It’s an incentive for customers to receive discounts for receiving multiple services from the same company,” Ms. Eder said. But in a statement, the watchdog groups alleged that the practice was aimed at undermining competition from satellite TV.

“Although we are the first to applaud businesses that discount their services to consumers, when such discounts constitute short-term efforts to eliminate competitors from the market, they harm consumers by denying them the long-term benefits of expanded choices and lower prices,” the groups said in a letter to the federal agencies.

Disney Names Dow VP, Government Relations: The Walt Disney Co. today named Troy Dow VP for government relations, effective April 7. Mr. Dow is currently VP and counsel for technology and new media at the Motion Picture Association of America. He was formerly a counsel on intellectual property issues for the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Vien Named President of Universal Networks: Patrick Vien, the president of Universal Television Group’s network enterprises unit, has been named president of Universal Studios Networks as well.

In addition to overseeing emerging cable channels Trio and Newsworld International (NWI), and UTG’s interest in Sundance Channel, Mr. Vien will be responsible for managing and operating the eight international channels owned by Universal: Sci Fi U.K., 13th Street in France, 13th Street in Spain, 13th Street in Germany, Studio Universal Italy, Studio Universal Germany, USA Network Brazil and USA Network Latin America.

Prior to joining Universal, Mr. Vien was president and chief operating officer of North American Television, where he founded and managed Trio and NWI prior to their acquisition by USA Networks, the predecessor to Universal Television Networks.