The Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network was back in Washington, D.C.,
Monday, protesting EchoStar Communications Corp. and one of its investment
banks, Credit Suisse First Boston.
Sharpton was joined by the Rev. Horace Sheffield III, president of the
Michigan chapter of the NAN, as well as activist comedian Dick Gregory and
Southern Christian Leadership Council president Martin Luther King III.
The NAN is protesting against EchoStar and its proposed merger with Hughes
Electronics Corp. because EchoStar CEO Charlie Ergen will not carry Word
Network, which features African-American preachers such as Sharpton, Sheffield
and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Sharpton, Sheffield and hundreds of protesters carrying signs first protested
against EchoStar two weeks ago.
Word Net has also filed a petition at the Federal Communications Commission,
asking the agency to deny the merger.
'It is my opinion that EchoStar is insensitive to the needs and desires of
the African-American community and that this insensitivity is evidenced by its
refusal to carry the Word Network or any comparable programming,' Word president
Kevin Adell wrote.
'The Word Network has been able to obtain carriage on DirecTV and has,
therefore, not been frozen out of satellite carriage on the set-aside channels,'
EchoStar said it already carries 21 public-interest channels, which meets its
'We had a number of qualified applicants last year, but they exceeded the
number of slots we had available, which was why we weren't able to offer the
Word Network in 2001,' spokesman Marc Lumpkin said.
According to the filing, Word is available on EchoStar rival DirecTV, with 10
million subscribers. It is also piped into approximately 4 million cable homes,
and 6 million homes receive it via over-the-air TV.
EchoStar plans to continue carrying Word if its merger with DirecTV goes
through, Lumpkin said.
The Armed Forces Network carries it to servicemen and servicewomen in 165
countries, and several African countries receive it through a partnership with a
Nigerian ministry, the petition said.
Word wasn't the only group to file its opposition to the merger at the FCC.
Last Friday, executives from Pegasus Communications Corp. met with commission
officials to explain their concerns about the merger.
And executives from the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative met
with FCC officials Jan. 14 to express their opposition, according to ex parte
filings at the agency.