DirecTV to FCC: Drop the dupes

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DirecTV asked the FCC on Friday to reconsider its rules determining how satellite companies carry local TV signals.

The satellite broadcaster complains that the rules require it to carry too much duplicative programming and are unfair compared to the rules that govern cable carriage of local TV stations. DirecTV also says rules that would require satellite companies to carry information provided in broadcasters' so-called "vertical blanking interval" - a part of the broadcast frequency reserved for broadcasters' supplemental use, such as TV ratings information - are infeasible. "DirecTV set-top boxes cannot accommodate the carriage of additional program-related material in the VBI and would need to be completely replaced for an installed base of almost ten million subscribers," DirecTV writes, estimating that the cost of such a change-out would be more than $2.8 billion.

DirecTV also wants the FCC to require broadcasters to adhere to the higher-quality signal standards for satellite carriers - standards higher than those imposed for cable operators. DirecTV says the current standard "will not allow satellite carriers to make efficient use of their allocated bandwidth, and that will increase the likelihood of signal degradation."

Finally, DirecTV takes issue with an FCC rule that would not allow satellite carriers to require customers to purchase additional equipment should television stations in their market be carried on separate satellites. The law "does not and was not intended to prohibit satellite carriers from offering local-into-local services from multiple locations, with multiple dishes if necessary, where it makes business and technical sense to do so," according to the filing.

While DirecTV approached the agency directly to seek rule changes, EchoStar appealed them to the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, the Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association appealed them to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. The National Association of Broadcasters appealed them - for its own reasons - to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. After a judicial lottery, the courts ruled that the case will be heard in the Fourth Circuit, says an SBCA spokesman.
- Paige Albiniak

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