EchoStar Challenged by Broadcasters

Dec 1, 2006  •  Post A Comment

As EchoStar today finishes cutting off signals from distant networks to 900,000 rural subscribers to its Dish satellite-TV service, the company’s legal battle with broadcasters is taking a new turn.

The National Association of Broadcasters in earlier proceedings has said EchoStar violates copyrights by delivering signals from far-away TV stations to customers who are ineligible to get them. Now the group is trying to block a planned lease by EchoStar that the NAB says would give the company’s subscribers the signal.

EchoStar’s lease of extra satellite capacity to the National Programming Service amounts to “flagrant contempt” of a Florida federal judge’s order blocking EchoStar from providing the distant network signals, said Dennis Wharton, an NAB spokesman, as the NAB asked a judge to enjoin EchoStar’s lease.

In a court filing, EchoStar said it was not providing distant network channels to its customers and is complying with the court’s order.

EchoStar said the deal with National Programming service is a valid arms-length transaction. The company argued the deal was done at a price it has used before in other transactions and that NPS isn’t supplied a list of subscribers whose distant-signal service was dropped.

The battling came as EchoStar rival DirecTV, owned by News Corp., began offering $150 rebates to consumers who switch services. News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting has been vociferous in opposing any legal settlement of the dispute and has also opposed EchoStar’s bid to get Congress to overturn the court decision.