ECHOSTAR TO SUPREMES
Satellite-TV company EchoStar last week asked the Supreme Court to decide whether it can offer out-of-market TV signals to anyone who wants them. EchoStar is challenging the decision of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. Ruling in September that the Satellite Home Viewer Act—which limits delivery of distant network signals to viewers "unserved" by a local affiliate—is not a content-based violation of speech, as EchoStar asserts, the court denied EchoStar's First Amendment arguments and remanded the rest of the decision to the U.S. District Court in Miami, where it still awaits a hearing.
EchoStar and broadcasters are opposed on this issue. "It is inconceivable that EchoStar professes support for local station carriage while at the same time attempting to undercut the U.S. system of broadcasting," said NAB President Eddie Fritts. That didn't stop EchoStar from sending out letters inviting broadcasters to sign carriage agreements with it during NAB's annual convention in Las Vegas this week.
FCC WINGS TO PEGASUS
Pegasus Communications will get to own two Tallahassee TV stations, even though the market doesn't have enough separately owned TV outlets to permit a duopoly, the FCC said Monday.
Pegasus won a waiver to buy WFXU(TV) from KB Prime Media under the FCC's "unbuilt-station" policy, allowing an operator to add a station if the second outlet's licensee was unable to construct the facility. Typically, duopolies are permitted only when eight separate TV voices would remain post-merger, but the WFXU sale was permitted because Pegasus funded the station's construction in 1997. Democrat FCC Commissioner Michael Copps dissented.