EchoStar Communications Corp. has illegally provided hundreds of thousands of customers with
network programming from stations in distant markets, the Federal District Court
in Miami ruled Wednesday.
But the satellite-TV distributor was hit with no penalty beyond stopping the
EchoStar and several Wall Street analysts framed the decision as a victory
for the Littleton, Colo.-based company because broadcasters had asked the court to
strip the company of its right to carry any broadcast signal, local or distant.
"This has been a long and hard-fought legal case that attempts to balance the
rights of broadcasters and consumers," EchoStar chairman Charles Ergen said. "We look toward moving forward with broadcasters by continuing to add local
EchoStar currently offers local channels in 68 markets.
The court's order did require EchoStar to make sure all customers continuing
to receive distant network signals are eligible, meaning they can't get an
acceptable picture from the local network affiliate or owned-and-operated station.
The company said the order may eliminate distant network signals to 10% of
The National Association of Broadcasters declared victory despite the lack of
severe sanction against EchoStar.
"EchoStar's years of copyright violations will finally come to an end," NAB president Eddie Fritts said.
The company's stock rose $2.04 Wednesday to close at
$35.34 per share.