Dish Network responded to noncommercial broadcaster complaints that it has not struck a carriage deal with those stations for carriage of their HD signals, saying that it is ready to talk. A noncom representative said they were ready to talk.
It will be talking about a phased-in approach for all TV-station HD signals that has the backing of Media Access Project.
PBS and the Association for Public Television Stations complained to the Federal Communications Commission earlier this week, pointing out that DirecTV and cable operators struck such deals but Dish had not.
The noncoms said that only in Alaska and Hawaii, where it is mandated by law, does Dish carry the HD signals of local noncommercial stations. In the other 31 markets where it has HD packages, it does not, they opined, while generally carrying the HD signals of the Big Four network commercial stations.
In a letter to APTS Wednesday, Dish senior vice president of programming Eric Sahl said he thought reaching a "mutually beneficial" agreement was possible and suggested a meeting at a "mutually agreeable date and time."
He added that Colorado Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette agreed to host the meeting at her Capitol Hill office.
Mark Erstling, executive VP and chief operating officer of APTS and one of the two APTS executives to recieve Sahl's letter, welcomed the offering. "We have always wanted to have meaningful negotiations with EchoStar for carriage of local public television stations' HD channels and other services they provide to their communities," he said. "We look forward to meeting with them to reach this goal.”
FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposed requiring any satellite operator that carries an HDTV station signal in a market after the February 2009 transition to digital to carry all of them, just as it is required to do with a TV station's analog signal. But he has also said that the FCC would entertain waivers for capacity-constraint issues.
Dish and DirecTV jointly proposed a phased-in approach to the carriage requirement, rather than a "premature" hard deadline. Media Access Project president Andrew J. Schwartzman, for one, supports the plan.
According to that schedule, the operators would deliver all of the relevant HD signals in 15% of markets, 30% after two years, 60% after three years and in all markets after four years. They have warned that a hard deadline might mean service disruption for some customers.
"Media Access Project supports the compromise proposal offered by DirecTV and Dish Network addressing the implementation of a digital-must-carry obligation on satellite providers," MAP said in a release. "They have offered a measured approach that provides a clear road map to full HD must-carry compliance in all HD markets within a reasonable time frame. Importantly, they propose to do so in a manner that protects existing services to consumers and ensures that DBS [direct-broadcast satellite] providers will offer a viable competitive choice to cable companies. We would be concerned with any regulatory solution that did not ensure continuity of existing services to all 30 million DBS subscribers."