Boucher voices merger support


Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), the member of Congress who has most vocally
supported the proposed merger of EchoStar Communications Corp. and Hughes
Electronics Corp., offered his opinion to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and
Federal Communications Commission chairman Michael Powell in a letter sent late
last week.

The letter was also signed by Reps. William Clay (D-Mo.), Dave Hobson
(R-Ohio) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.).

Although Boucher et al recognize that other members have "concerns" about the
merger, "we believe the companies have addressed them completely and
satisfactorily," they wrote.

Boucher is hinging his support on EchoStar's commitment to a national pricing
plan, which would allow rural subscribers with no multichannel competition to
receive the same prices as subscribers in urban areas where several competitors
offer programming services.

"With national pricing in place, rural satellite consumers will benefit from
the stiff multichannel-video-programming competition in the urban markets, where
the satellite companies compete head-to-head with cable," the lawmakers wrote.
"This commitment should be reflected in a binding agreement accompanying
approval of the merger."

Boucher has been supportive of the merger since it was first announced last

Other members who have stated clear support include House Majority Leader
Richard Armey (R-Texas), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), Rep. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.),
Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.) and Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.).

Still, Congressional opposition or strong concern over the merger far
outweighs the support the companies have received thus far on Capitol Hill.