10.04.2004 08:00 AM
EchoStar’s Ergen riles both broadcasters and cable

Charlie Ergen has proposed a new service that is uniting his opponents.

Ergen proposes that his DISH Network satellite service be allowed to take HDTV feeds from network affiliates in New York and Los Angeles and sell them in packages to satellite viewers in parts of the country where his viewers cannot receive the programming off-air on an antenna.

Ergen’s proposal both united Eddie Fritz, the head of the NAB, and Robert Sachs, his counterpart at the NCTA. The two rivals sent a joint letter Sept. 24 to Sens. Orin Hatch and Patrick Leahy, two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, opposing the Ergen plan and his idea of a digital white area for DBS operators.

Sachs and Fritz argue each of their industries have invested billions of dollars in digital television and that Echostar’s competitor, DIRECTV, has just announced a plan to provide more than 500 local digital broadcast stations by next year and more than 1500 stations by 2007.

The pair claimed that EchoStar’s plan would siphon viewership away from local broadcast stations and constitute a direct assault on America’s system of free, over-the-air local television.

EchoStar responded by saying that there are tens of millions of homes across the country that cannot receive an HDTV signal from one or more network-affiliated stations within their home market. The company said that one of the main reasons some viewers still don’t get a station’s digital signal is because many outlets are saving on transmitter power costs by transmitting DTV at a lower power that doesn’t reach their full coverage area.

The satellite operator said it should be allowed to fix the problem by serving viewers who cannot receive DTV from a local station.

For more information, visit www.dishnetwork.com, www.nab.org and www.ncta.com.

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