EchoStar hammered

Federal judges were tough on EchoStar's attorney on Feb. 5, casting doubt on the company's effort to gain court-ordered access to Comcast's regional sports programming in Philadelphia.

EchoStar claims Comcast is violating rules requiring cable programmers to sell most of their content to satellite-TV providers and cable overbuilders. The rule applies only to programming transmitted via satellite, and the sports network is distributed by Comcast's fiber-optic network. The FCC has rejected EchoStar's argument that the practice is illegal.

Although judges' comments don't always reveal their leanings, they were especially critical of EchoStar's demand for an FCC investigation into Comcast. "You wanted a fishing expedition," said Judge David Sentelle, the most vocal of three skeptical judges. "You had nothing to go on."

FCC set to nix Peninsula sticks

Peninsula Communications faces revocation of all its broadcast licenses and has been ordered to pay the largest FCC fine ($140,000) ever imposed on a broadcaster. The FCC says its refusal to cease operation of seven translators in Alaska as ordered in May makes it unfit to be a licensee.

Peninsula operates four full-power stations in Alaska—KTGL(AM) Homer, KXBA(FM) Nikiski, KWVV-FM Homer, KPEN-FM Soldotna—and four translators in addition to those ordered shut down. It argues that it is not required to shut them down until a court rules on its appeal. The FCC counters that, even though applicants facing a cease-and-desist order are typically allowed to operate until appeals are resolved, Peninsula has failed to remedy a string of violations since 1994.