Satellite TV providers resist carrying all broadcasters’ HD signals

In a joint letter to the FCC, DIRECTV and Dish Network, competitors in satellite delivery, said they oppose any mandate that requires them to carry all of a broadcaster’s HD signals as of next year.

Currently, satellite operators have to carry all TV stations in any market where they choose to carry at least one. The FCC is considering extending that to HDTV signals after the transition to digital starting in February 2009.

While Dish Network and DIRECTV said they are willing eventually to carry all HD signals, they argued that the FCC should phase in the requirement over four years.

In the letter to the commission, both companies said such a phased-in approach, with a hard deadline four years after the transition, would still be a burden, but it would be better than what they called a “premature deadline accompanied by a waiver process.” They said such an HD requirement would cause satellite operators to drop local programming, whole markets and niche channels like Spanish-language networks.

Meanwhile, the NAB has asked the FCC to ensure that DIRECTV truly carries all 210 local TV stations over its system. The request was part of the deal to approve the DIRECTV-Liberty media merger.

When the FCC approved News Corp.‘s purchase of DIRECTV in 2003, the company promised to deliver local TV to all 210 markets by 2008. To date, DIRECTV is delivering local TV signals in 144 markets.

The NAB wants the other 66 stations included as a condition of the deal.

In related news, DIRECTV recently began offering local HD programming in Omaha, NE, carrying KETV-DT (ABC), KMTV-DT (CBS), KPTM-DT (Fox), WOWT-DT (NBC) and KXVO—DT (CW network). The company said it now offers local HD broadcast channels in 77 cities, representing approximately 76 percent of U.S. TV households. This includes 92 national HD channels.