Senate moves to bail out EchoStar in retrans spat
A set of very prominent Senators have banded together to fight a grave injustice by submitting a bill called the Satellite Consumer Protection Act of 2006.
Finally - an issue so critical that politicians feel compelled to set aside partisan rancor to join in fraternal harmony. Is it a threat to national security? A response to a natural disaster? No. Dish Network subscribers are about to lose access to network affiliate stations from outside the cities where they live. Can't. Have. That.
EchoStar had been widely broadcasting the feeds from a variety of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox network affiliates without adequately securing out-of-market rights to those transmissions.
The disaster was precipitated when News Corp., which owns Fox, sued EchoStar. In October a U.S. District Court judge in Fort Lauderdale issued an injunction that barred EchoStar from selling satellite feeds outside of markets where subscribers live. EchoStar appealed all the way to the Supreme Court, to no avail.
The District Court's injunction stands, and EchoStar will have to stop the broadcasts on December 1.
In jump Senators Leahy, Allard, Inouye, Snowe, Rockefeller, Byrd, Salazar, Clinton, Roberts, Pryor, Enzi, and Ensign. Should their bill be passed, it will allow EchoStar to resume transmitting out-of-market channels to the estimated 800,000 subscribers affected. EchoStar contends that some of those subscribers live in rural areas where there is no local broadcaster.
EchoStar said the decision could cost it as much as $50 million in revenue a year.
Congress is about to adjourn and so is unlikely to get to the bill until early next year, but it is also unlikely the injunction will stand for anything close to a full year.
EchoStar issued a statement commending "this tremendous bipartisan effort to enable innocent consumers to continue to receive distant network channels."