As the Department of Justice reportedly deposes satellite-TV retailers,
programmers and others to buttress a decision on the EchoStar Communications
Corp./DirecTV Inc. merger, a coalition of rural organizations, unions, Latino
advocates, lawmakers and the National Association of Broadcasters are urging the
antitrust regulators to reject the deal.
The diverse groups rallied at DOJ headquarters in
Washington, D.C., Wednesday, urging regulators to 'Dish the Merger' that they say will greatly
reduce multichannel competition, especially in the many rural areas poorly
served by cable.
The $26 billion merger would place control of all of the U.S.-allocated
direct-broadcast TV orbital slots in the hands of one company and leave
Americans either one or two choices for pay TV.
'This battle is about much more than the NFL Sunday Ticket [the out-of-market
National Football League package],' said Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah,), one of more
than 140 U.S. senators and congressmen opposed or voicing worries about the
'Satellite technology is the key to high-speed Internet access for education
and economic development in large sections of the country.'
NAB lobbyist Jim May urged regulators to disregard EchoStar's promise to
carry local stations and more markets after combining the satellite capacity of the
'A promise to sometime in the
future build out in all markets is not justification for a merger
to perfect a monopoly,' he said.
Mays noted the NAB's contention that EchoStar and DirecTV separately have the
capacity to serve all 210 designated TV markets right now.
Also urging rejection of the deal were the National Consumers League, the
Communications Workers of American, the Latino Coalition and the National Rural
Electric Cooperatives Association.
EchoStar officials insisted that the merged companies
will be in better position to compete with incumbent cable providers.
The merger is necessary to bring broadband service to rural communities,
added Frontiers of Freedom, a conservative economic-advocacy group.
'Neither phone nor cable companies will invest the tens of millions of
dollars necessary to bring high-speed Internet to rural America,' group chairman
Malcolm Wallop said in a prepared statement.
The DOJ in the next few weeks is expected to forbid the
deal or propose conditions that EchoStar must meet for