NAB, NCTA urge senators to oppose digital white area provision of satellite bill

Both organizations say the new provisions are a “government giveaway” to direct broadcast satellite provider EchoStar

A letter from the National Association of Broadcasters and National Cable and Telecommunications Association to Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) call provisions of the Satellite Home Viewer and Rural Consumer Access to Digital Television Act a “government giveaway” to direct broadcast satellite provider EchoStar.

The letter, dated Sept. 24 from NAB President and CEO Edward Fritts and NCTA President and CEO Robert Sachs, contends that the bill reported by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee this summer would damage competition and localism.

The “digital white area” provisions of the bill would let DBS operators provide customers with digital signals of out-of-market stations in lieu of the digital signals from broadcasters licensed to serve local communities.

The letter said the premise upon which the digital white area proposal is based is incorrect for several reasons, including:

  • The cable industry, which also has invested billions of dollars in technology improvements, is carrying hundreds of these local digital broadcast signals, and adding more every week.
  • DIRECTV has just announced a plan to launch additional satellites that will provide more than 500 local digital broadcast stations next year, and more than 1500 stations by 2007.

The letter concluded by urging the senators to oppose inclusion of a “digital white area” provision in the bill.

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