FCC grants DISH qualified carrier certification

The FCC certified DISH Network Sept. 1 as a qualified carrier under the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) of 2010, opening the way for the satellite TV service provider to retransmit out-of-market TV stations indefinitely to eligible subscribers.

By issuing the certification, the FCC provided DISH with a means to receive a permanent waiver of a court injunction preventing it from offering the stations to fill in network channels in markets where no local broadcaster transmits the channels.

In 2006, a court permanently enjoined DISH's former parent company EchoStar from offering distant TV signals. However, a provision of STELA enacted in the spring allowed for a temporary injunction waiver, which expires Sept. 29. It also gave the DBS broadcaster a way to seek permanent relief.

On June 30, the company filed for the certification, telling the commission it had begun satisfying three conditions setup under STELA to be designated a qualified carrier. As a qualified carrier, DISH can obtain an indefinite waiver of the injunction.

The company filed extensive documentation with the commission to demonstrate compliance with the three conditions, which include:

  • providing local service in all 210 DMAs;
  • being predicted to provide "good quality satellite service" to the 29 DMAs added to comply with the first condition; and
  • establishing that there is no evidence of technical failure that would prevent fulfilling the first two conditions.

During the comment period regarding the certification, Delmarva Broadcast Service, the operator of WMDT-TV, Salisbury, MD, told the commission it should not grant the certification because it has not reached a retransmission consent agreement with DISH allowing the DBS operator to transmit the channel. The commission did not find merit in the objection.

"The lack of any relevant objection to the certification, and the absence of any evidence that DISH has failed to provide local service, as defined by STELA, in all 210 markets, supports DISH's extensive filing," the order said.