Hatch Slams Dish Divide


Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) has joined House counterparts opposing EchoStar Communications Corp.'s policy of relegating some local broadcast channels to a second dish that subscribers in some markets must install to get all their hometown channels.

Hatch said that pending Senate legislation to renew satellite carriers' right to carry broadcast channels should be amended to prohibit the two-dish practice.

The House Telecommunications Subcommittee has already approved a similar prohibition that would still allow two dishes but require all the broadcast channel be on one or the other. Given the attractiveness of local TV stations to satellite subs, that would virtually ensure that smaller stations would be on the most-favored dish.

"I believe that the Senate should prohibit the discriminatory placement of certain stations on a second satellite, requiring subscribers to obtain a second dish to receive them," Hatch said during a hearing on the satellite bill Wednesday.

"I am particularly concerned that Spanish-language, religious, and public broadcast stations have been singled out for this treatment." A House Commerce Committee vote on its satellite legislation scheduled for Thursday has been postponed. A new date has not been scheduled.