Court Upholds FCC DBS Local-Signal Test


A court has upheld the FCC's method of determining which households receive a local signal and thus are not eligible to receive an imported distant TV station signal from a satellite provider.

The U.S. court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Tuesday denied an EchoStar appeal of the FCC's congressionally-mandated model for determining signal strength.

Broadcasters concerned that EchoStar was importing distant network signals to viewers who could already receive a hometown affiliate of the same network, had backed the FCC in filings with the court.

Responding to the decision, NAB said: "This opinion affirms the FCC's hard work and expertise in establishing who is fairly eligible to receive such signals and strengthens broadcasting's rich tradition of localism."

EchoStar is already facing the prospect of pulling all its distant signals after an Atlanta Federal Appeals Court in May, in a harshly-worded opinion, declared: "We have found no indication that EchoStar was ever interested in complying with" laws regulating how satellite TV companies deliver broadcast stations to their customers.

That case was part of a long-running copyright dispute between broadcasters and satellite companies over homes located in the fringes of TV markets. TV stations want to reach every home in their areas. But subscribers in fringe areas often prefer their satellite companies to deliver stations from, say, New York City rather than Hartford, Conn.

EchoStar is permitted to deliver so-called "distant" signals only to homes that receive no other stations over the air. But EchoStar’s method of determining which customers were eligible for the distant signals has been a bone of contention, and litigation, for years. Broadcasters complain that the company abuses the rules and violates the Satellite Home Viewer Act by regularly delivering the wrong market’s stations to its subscribers.--John Higgins contributed to this report.