Court Rules Against EchoStar

May 24, 2006  •  Post A Comment

A federal appeals court late Tuesday dealt a setback to EchoStar Communications in its fight with network-affiliated stations over whose signals the second-largest U.S. satellite-television provider can carry.

The court ordered EchoStar to stop providing signals from distant network affiliate stations to customers who can receive over-the-air broadcasts from nearby sister affiliates.

The decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta is a victory for the affiliates of the TV networks and the National Association of Broadcasters.

“This opinion affirms the importance of localism in television and vindicates an eight-year effort by TV broadcasters to stop EchoStar’s blatant and massive abuse of copyright law,” David Rehr, NAB’s president and CEO, said in a statement.

In a series of lawsuits over the past several years, the broadcasters have alleged that EchoStar was violating a copyright law that bars satellite TV companies from providing distant affiliates’ signals that would compete with local affiliates’ over-the-air transmissions. The affiliates claimed that EchoStar had been delivering distant network signals to hundreds of thousands of ineligible homes.

EchoStar said in a statement that it was disappointed by the ruling. The company declined to say how many of its satellite TV subscribers would be affected by the court order.

The satellite TV provider also said it has reached settlement agreements with some affiliated TV stations that would solve some disputes over which signals it carries.

The company said it will try to reach similar agreements while it weighs its response to the ruling.