EchoStar Says It's Just Taking Care of Subs

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EchoStar is not optimistic about the prospects of legislation that would lift the injunction on its delivery of distant network TV signals to subscribers.

It sought the help from Congress after the court told it to pull the plug on distant signals to some 900,000 customers, but, according to a network spokeswoman, there is likely too short a window in the lame-duck session for any movement on the Satellite Consumer Protection Act of 2006, which had about a dozen Senate backers, both Republican and Democrat.

But EchoStar sees its deal to provide satellite capacity to National Programming Service (NPS), an independent supplier of distant network signals, as one possible solution for customers who lost access to network signals.

Those customers lost the signals when EchoStar complied with a court-ordered injunction to pull the signals Dec. 1. But thanks to the EchoStar deal with NPS, customers who are eligible to get the signals can still get them along with their DISH network programming by contacting NPS. No new equipment. Just a call to NPS to see if they are eligible and a separate bill for the service.

That deal did not sit well with broadcasters, led by CBS, who filed a motion with a Florida court saying EchoStar was essentially circumventing the injunction via the deal and was in contempt of court.

EchoStar countered that it is not delivering the signals and that it is not acting in concert with NPS, which it says is a sometimes competitor. EchoStar spokeswoman Kathie Gonzalez says that EchoStar is also telling rural customers that they can get their local channels from cable.

"The permanent injunction does not and cannot preclude everyone in the world from providing distant network programming to eligible subscribers," EchoStar told the court.

The Florida court, at the direction of a federal court, ordered EchoStar to pull its distant signals from both eligible and ineligible subs because the federal court had concluded the company was not sufficiently successful at discriminating between customers who should and should not get the distant signals.

The "shoulds" are households that cannot get a local signal either on-air or over satellite.

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