EchoStar: We Can't Deliver Noncom HD's By 2011

Says could not comply without additional satellite capacity

In a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday, Dish Network EVP and General Counsel R. Stanton Dodge said the company would not be able to comply with a proposal that it deliver all noncommercial stations' HD signals by 2011 in markets where it delivers any local station HD signals.

Dodge said that not only did that raise First Amendment concerns, but that it could not comply with the rollout schedule--50% by 2010, the rest by 2011--without the additional satellite capacity which it won't have until it launches a new satellite in the fourth quarter of 2012.

That $350 million satellite is being launched to meet the current FCC timetable for delivering all HD signals in any market where it carries any by February 2013. The FCC's is actually a phased transition over four years: carriage in 15% of markets by 2010, 30% by 2011, 60% by 2012 and 100% by 2013.

Dish and the Association of Public Television Stations have been negotiating for three years without success. APTS already has a deal with DirecTV.

Dish points out that it already delivers the standard-definition feeds of PBS stations in 181 markets, more than any single multichannel video provider, and will be doing so in all 210 markets if Congress lets it back into the distant-signal business.