Senators Push for News Corp. Investigation


The senators from EchoStar's home state of Colorado want the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate rival News Corp.--which controls DirecTV--over its push to have EchoStar's imported distant signals cut off.

In a letter to the chairman and ranking member of the committee, Senators Wayne Allard, a Republican, and Ken Salaszar, a Democrat, said they were concerned with Fox/News Corp.'s rejection of a $100 million deal between EchoStar and all the network affiliates, including Fox's, that EchoStar hoped would settle their long-standing dispute.

TV stations filed suit against EchoStar in 1998, arguing that it was importing network-affiliated TV stations into markets where viewers could already get a signal from the local affiliate of the same network. By law, such signals can only be imported to viewers who can't get an acceptable signal from their local affiliate.

A federal court found that EchoStar had, indeed, been breaking the law by failing to distinguish properly between eligible and ineligible homes, and directed a lower court to implement a permanent injunction, which Fox says applies irrespective of the settlement. The injunction applies to all distant signals, not just those delivered to disputed customers.

News Corp. told a Florida court that it must proceed with the injunction at the higher court's direction, despite the settlement. The Florida court has given EchoStar until September. 15 to explain why the court should not impose the injunction.

The legislators say that they want to make sure that News Corp.s refusal to accept the settlement for its owned stations and its push for implementing the injunction that would pull the signals from hundreds of thousands of EchoStar customers, "was not motivated by a desire to ensure that DirecTV wins the market share that will be abandoned should EchoStar be forced to turn off its distant signals."