FCC Affirms One Dish for Local Stations on DBS

In an order released last Friday, the FCC addressed four petitions for reconsideration of its Media Bureau’s order to terminate outstanding must-carry proceedings filed by EchoStar.
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In an order released last Friday, the FCC addressed four petitions for reconsideration of its Media Bureau’s order to terminate outstanding must-carry proceedings filed by EchoStar. These concern the use of two satellite dishes to receive local stations on their DBS system. The Media Bureau found EchoStar’s “two-dish” plan violated the FCC’s Rules, but the Declaratory Ruling and Order did not specifically prohibit a two-dish approach.

After that ruling was issued, Congress amended the statute in the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 (SHVERA) to specifically prohibit the two-dish approach. EchoStar now complies with the statutory requirements and asked that the proceeding be terminated.

The new new ruling focused on complaints raised in a petition filed by NAB and the Association of Local Television Stations filed in January 2002. It found that “requiring multiple antennas or different equipment to receive all the local stations in a market caused the type of discriminatory treatment Congress intended to prevent.”

The FCC noted, “The fact that EchoStar was unable to remedy this discrimination, and Congress’s prohibition of this behavior in SHVERA, lead us to conclude that our initial decision was flawed insofar as it held out the possibility that such split-market carriage could be lawful and effective to remedy the discrimination. ... The decision wrongly offered EchoStar remedial options, rather than banning the two-dish approach outright.”

The FCC vacated the Declaratory Ruling to the extent that it held that split-market carriage could be lawful, and it granted EchoStar’s motion to terminate the proceeding.