Satellite Operators Must Offer Local Signals on One Dish

Nov 22, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Federal lawmakers have approved legislation that requires satellite operators to offer all local broadcast signals over the same dish.

EchoStar Communications has been offering some of the signals on a second dish in some markets. Broadcasters have alleged that EchoStar’s policy discriminates against less-popular stations, particularly those that offer Spanish-language and religious programming.

Under the legislation, EchoStar will have 18 months to consolidate broadcast signals onto a single dish. Satellite operators also will have a limited right to import network digital TV signals into markets that currently aren’t able to receive those signals from local network affiliates-but only until local digital service becomes available. The legislation expires in five years.

The legislation was included in a massive appropriations bill for the federal government that was approved Saturday, near the end of the post-election lame-duck session. In a statement, Eddie Fritts, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “Congress has hit the trifecta by passing a pro-consumer bill that enhances broadcast localism, slams the door on EchoStar’s abusive two-dish practice that discriminates against Hispanic and religious TV viewers and thwarts efforts to establish digital ‘white areas.'” “White areas” refers to areas that aren’t served by a local television station.