Allbritton, EchoStar in standoff over distant signals

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Allbritton Communications Co. stations are off EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network in four markets after the two sides failed to reach a carriage agreement.

The affected stations, all ABC affiliates, are WJLA-TV Washington, D.C.; WBMA-TV
Birmingham, Ala.; WHTM-TV Harrisburg, Pa.; and KTUL-TV Tulsa, Okla.

Allbritton claimed Monday that the two sides had a deal, which
Allbritton had already signed, that fell apart when EchoStar raised "new

EchoStar spokesman Mark Lumpkin denied that there had ever been a deal.

The central issue is whether EchoStar can import distant network signals, as
well as carrying local ones.

Allbritton wants to prevent such importation.

EchoStar's Jerald Fritz said in a statement, "Allbritton has always told
EchoStar that it should carry the local ABC affiliate with local news,
programming and sponsors, rather than programming from markets with no connection
to local viewers."

EchoStar's Mark Lumpkin said it is "not true" that the company wants to
carry signals from New York or Los Angeles rather than local ABC affiliates. "We
just want to be able to offer those unserved by a local broadcast signal a
distant network signal in addition."

EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen was scheduled to talk with viewers in the affected
markets last night in a town-meeting-like broadcast.

The company has also filed a complaint with the FCC asking it to moderate the
dispute and pointing out that the Satellite Home Viewer Act requires it to stop
carrying the stations absent an agreement.