EchoStar Fires Back at NAB


EchoStar Communications Corp. will scrap its two-dish policy when broadcasters return their analog spectrum.

That was EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen's response to a letter from NAB to the Senate Commerce Committee Tuesday telling legislators to make that two-dish policy illegal.

Ergen sent his letter to Fritts as well as to the committee.

EchoStar says that due to a lack of satellite capacity, it needs two dishes to provide all the stations in a market. By law, it must carry all the stations in a market if it wants to carry any. NAB suggested in the letter that Ergen had no intention of ending the practice unless forced by Congress, which it suggested did not jibe with EchoStar's initial promise that two dishes would be a temporary solution.

"The only broken pledge in this issue is the one in which the broadcasters promised by 2002 to be broadcasting their digital signal to the same audience that receives their analog signal," said Ergen. "We do not see the same kind of progress on the broadcasters' side, and we sympathize with consumers who thought they would have a high-definition signal over the air by now."

Satellite companies are pushing for the right to deliver distant digital signals to homes that cannot receive a local digital signal. They are already allowed to deliver a distant analog signal to unserved homes, though NAB, and the courts, have taken issue with just how EchoStar comes to that determination.

Ergen says that EchoStar is eager to convert to single dishes given the cost of supplying a free second one, and points out that it needs the two dishes in only 38 of the 127 markets that it serves. "We believe that EchoStar is making solid, measurable progress toward its goal of providing local channels in all 210 DMA's, isolating all local channels within a market to one dish. We do not see the same progress on the broadcasters' side.