EchoStar: Let us air distant TV signals


EchoStar Communications Corp. Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to hear
arguments on whether the satellite-TV carrier can offer out-of-market TV signals
to its subscribers.

EchoStar is challenging the decision of the 11th

Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which ruled
last September that it was constitutional to require satellite-TV providers to leave local TV signals
in their local markets.

In that ruling, the court threw out EchoStar's First Amendment arguments and
remanded the rest of the decision to the U.S. District Court in Miami, where it
still awaits a hearing.

TV broadcasters -- which strongly oppose EchoStar's $26 billion proposed merger
with Hughes Electronics Corp. -- are equally opposed to allowing any distributor
to offer out-of-market local TV signals, whether the distributor is satellite,
cable or the Internet.

This is the second case EchoStar is challenging before the Supreme Court. It
also has asked the high court to overturn a ruling by the
Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

In that case, EchoStar wants the Supreme Court to rule that it is
unconstitutional to force satellite-TV companies to carry all local TV stations
in all markets they serve.

Besides wanting the freedom to offer subscribers any TV signals they may want,
EchoStar also wants to be required to carry only local TV stations with 'meaningful
local content,' and not home shopping channels or other locally
originated channels EchoStar deems to not be worthy.

For their part, broadcasters feel strongly that all local TV channels must be
carried by any distributor serving any market.

Meanwhile, EchoStar faces a tough regulatory battle in
Washington, D.C., over its merger proposal, where many industry and
consumer factions are fighting over whether the plan is a good idea for

Although the National Association of Broadcasters
opposes EchoStar's deal, EchoStar is inviting broadcasters to sign carriage
agreements with it at the NAB's annual convention next week.