Sweeney denies strong-arming EchoStar


ABC Cable Networks president Anne Sweeney denied that The Walt Disney Co. was
demanding an increase in subscriber fees beyond the limits of the former The
Family Channel's 1995 carriage deal with EchoStar Communications Corp.

Sweeney said in a conference call Wednesday that a Jan. 2 statement by
EchoStar made false claims about Disney's demands.

'Disney has never sought an increase in carriage fees beyond those agreed to
in the contract,' she said.

In the Jan. 2 statement, EchoStar referred to 'Disney executives' very real
and documented threats to oppose the pending EchoStar-Hughes [Electronics Corp.]
merger unless EchoStar bowed to Disney's demand for continued carriage at much
higher rates for ABC Family and ESPN Classic.'

EchoStar also said Disney imposed rate increases well above the rate of

Sweeney dodged questions about ESPN Classic's rates, as well as inquiries
about negotiations between EchoStar and Disney over ABC Family's carriage,
saying she wouldn't negotiate with EchoStar through the press.

A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order New Year's Eve
preventing EchoStar from pulling ABC Family off its Dish Network.

A hearing was scheduled for Thursday (Jan. 10), when the order was to expire,
but it will now take place Jan. 17.