DISH Avoids STELA Noncom Mandate

Strikes independent HD carriage deal with 30 noncom stations
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DISH has
managed to avoid the expedited noncommercial HD carriage mandate in the
newly reauthorized satellite distant signal blanket license law by
striking an independent HD carriage deal with at least 30 noncommercial
stations, the company
confirmed to B&C Thursday.

But it still plans to challenge the law that forced it to strike that deal.

After a court rejected its request for a preliminary injunction against the mandate, the satellite operator was

facing a July 27 deadline in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act for either striking its own,

independent carriage deal with at least 30 noncoms, or be subject to a mandate that it carry all noncommercial

stations in HD by the end of next year rather than by 2013, which is the FCC deadline--part of a phase-in plan--for

satellite HD carriage for commercial and noncommercial stations alike.

DISH had tried to negotiate a blanket deal with the
Association of Public Television Stations (APTS), but had failed to do
so. The deal was not with APTS, which represents noncoms nationwide,
but does include a geographically diverse group of
stations, according to the company, which had no comment on when that
HD carriage would begin. The law only requred that the deals be struck
by July 27.

DISH filed the injunction three weeks ago in Nevada, where it is incorporated, because it is facing a July 27

deadline for coming to carriage terms with 30 noncom stations or triggering a speeded-up (by the end of next year)

timetable for carriage of all noncommercial signals in any market where it carries any stations in HD.  

DISH's bone to pick is not with the FCC, which is required to enforce the law, but with the legislation that it

argues puts a thumb on the scale in favor of a particular type of programming. 

DISH has said that the mandate violates its First and Fifth Amendment rights and has already put a crimp in business

plans it based on the 2008 FCC timetable for phasing in HD carriage of all local TV stations, including noncoms, by

2013.

DISH will continue to push the constitutional challenge
to the law in the Ninth Circuit, both the requirement that it do the
30-station deal to avoid the mandate, and the mandate itself.

"The court's ruling is a victory for consumers who deserve access to public broadcasting in the same high-quality as they receive commercial programming, " said Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who was the driving force behind the noncom HD mandate in STELA. "While Dish is complying with the court's ruling by signing noncommercial stations, their decision to appeal is a disservice to their customers. The other major carriers offer PBS in high-definition and it's high-time Dish joins the fold."

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