EchoStar ordered to stop out-of-market broadcast signals

A federal district court judge in Florida last week ordered EchoStar Communications to stop offering out-of-market television network signals to customers who live in areas served by a broadcast affiliate of the network.

The NAB called it a victory. “Today’s ruling … is an important victory for free, local, over-the-air television and the viewers across the country who depend on it,” said NAB President and CEO Eddie Fritts. “With this ruling, EchoStar’s years of copyright violations will finally come to an end.”

EchoStar put a different spin on the ruling, which it called a clarification and approval of procedures for qualifying subscribers for distant network channels.

“EchoStar is disappointed that it has taken almost five years to get this ruling and that the court determined certain EchoStar methods are not allowed. Specifically, the court found that when qualifying distant network subscribers, EchoStar may only use one database and that interference from other broadcast stations cannot be considered. As a result, EchoStar must re-qualify its distant network channel customers. This may result in the potential loss of certain distant network channels to less than 10 percent of EchoStar’s customer base.”

EchoStar said it is “pleased that the court rejected the outrageous attempt by broadcasters to try to force EchoStar to terminate local and distant network channels to all customers. Importantly, the decision today does not impact any DISH Network customers who are receiving their local ABC, NBC, CBS or FOX network channels by satellite. No damages were awarded by the court.”

Charles Ergen, Chairman and CEO of EchoStar, said “we look toward moving forward with broadcasters by continuing to add local cities and to make sure that all sides honor the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) of 1999.”

EchoStar said it would appeal several issues, including the right of customers to be grandfathered to receive distant network channels as provided under the SHVIA.

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