Christian broadcasters Thursday delivered to the Justice Department
472,656 petitions opposing the proposed merger of EchoStar Communications Corp.
and Hughes Electronics Corp., owner of DirecTV Inc.
The ministers -- including the Revs. John Hagee, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo
Dollar and Dr. Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University -- said they
and the petitioners oppose the merger because it will create a monopoly in the
satellite-TV industry, thereby limiting access to religious programming, and
because "the corporate leadership of EchoStar is decidedly pro-pornography."
"The ministers who stand with me today, and thousands of spiritual shepherds
across the nation, recognize pornography to be nothing less than celluloid
sewage," said Hagee, in his address to a small group of reporters and onlookers.
"Not to speak out against EchoStar for trying to make the minds of America's
children their toxic dumpsite would be considered treason in the courts of
heaven," he added.
The petitioners are also opposed to the merger because of EchoStar's court
fight against a law that requires satellite-TV providers to carry all local
television stations in all markets they serve.
"If you watch Christian television over satellite or cable TV right now,
EchoStar wants that privilege revoked," the petition said.
EchoStar disagreed with that point of view, saying that satellite-TV
providers carry more religious programming than any other multichannel provider
in the country.
"We are at a loss to understand why these ministers would protest two
companies that provide the most religious broadcasting available in the United States
today," EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin said.
EchoStar said it and DirecTV combined carry 12 video and audio channels
"dedicated to religious programming," including Christian network Trinity
Broadcasting Network; Catholic network Eternal Word Television Network in English and Spanish;
Dominion SkyAngel's Angel One; The Word Network; Radio Maria in Spanish, Polish and
Italian; Clara+Vision; Inspirational Life; Daystar; and The Church Channel.
Finally, EchoStar said, it "has always complied with the must-carry rules and
now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to not revisit the issue, EchoStar
will continue to comply with must-carry rules. After the merger, with the
delivery of local channels to all 210 TV markets, the new company will be the
nation's largest provider of local religious broadcasters."
The ministers refused to take questions after the press conference,
immediately driving away in a caravan of Lincoln Town Cars.
Meanwhile, a small group of quiet protesters flanked the side of the press
conference, holding signs with slogans such as "Murdoch paid for this,"
referring to News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch. The leader of that
group -- Will Nance, a citizen of Alexandria, Va., who would not state his
affiliation -- said they were a group of "concerned people" who "do not want
Murdoch to have more control" over the media. "He's the enemy of Christian
conservatives," Nance said.