DISH To FCC: Let Us In!

Satellite operator says WCPB is its Salisbury stake in fulfilling STELA mandate
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DISH has asked the Commission to move "without delay" to
certify that it should be allowed back into the business of delivering distant
signals, saying its single TV station critic is off base.

As part of the reauthorization by Congress of the law that provides
a blanket license for satellite carriers to deliver those distant signals, DISH
had to agree to deliver local TV station signals to the remaining handful of
markets (a little over two dozen) where it has been economically infeasible to
deliver them if it wanted to get back into the distant signal business.

DISH has been out of the business of delivering out-of-market
versions of affiliated network TV stations to subs who cannot receive a
viewable version of their local affiliate since a court found the satellite
operator was not accurately identifying who qualified for the signals and
enjoined it from delivering them.

In reply comments filed at the FCC, DISH pointed out that only one
out of 1,782 stations in the country objected to certifying DISH as a qualified
carrier. That is WMDT-TV Salisbury, Md., which argued that DISH was still not
delivering any commercial stations to the market, having only tried to strike
carriage deals with the stations a few days before the June 3 date for delivering
local signals but failed to reach agreements.

DISH countered in its reply comments that it has launched the
local PBS affiliate, WCPB-TV, there under must-carry, but that it is not
required to carry any stations that have elected, but have yet to grant,
retransmission consent. DISH concedes it has not launched either of the
commercial stations in the market, which account for four network affiliations
(WMDT is ABC, with a CW multicast stream; WBOC-TV is CBS with a Fox multicast
affiliation). But DISH says that not only is it not required by the STELA
[Satellite Television Extension and Localist Act] mandate to carry those
stations absent an agreement, but also that copyright law prohibits it from
doing so.

DISH is required by law to negotiate "in good faith,"
which it says it has done. It also said it provided "timely notice"
(on Feb. 19) that it would be delivering local signals in the market.

While DISH says negotiations continue to be cordial, WMDT licensee
Delmarva sees it differently. "There was some negotiation toward a
retransmission agreement for carriage over the nine business days up to June
3," it said in its filing, "but no agreement was reached. Efforts
since that time by Delmarva's counsel, to foster further discussion toward an
agreement, including as recently as last week, have not been responded to by
DISH."

"The almost total lack of objection to DISH's qualified
carrier certification application from the country's broadcast community speaks
volumes," DISH concludes in asking the FCC to certify it ASAP. "DISH
has met the statutory requirements for qualified carrier status under STELA and
respectfully requests that the Commission certify that fact promptly."

Separately, DISH is challenging the STELA mandate that it carry
all noncommercial stations' HD signals by the end of next year rather than the
FCC's end-of-2013 timetable. But DISH also struck deals by July 27 with 30
noncom stations to carry their HD feeds, which the bill stipulates exempts it
from that expedited timetable.

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