LITTLETON, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 8, 1999--
EchoStar CEO and Chairman Charlie Ergen Offers Statement On Impending Satellite TV Legislation:
EchoStar Communications Corporation is disappointed that Congress has failed the American public by not creating satellite TV
legislation that offers effective competition to cable. This bill, in its current state, is anti-consumer, anti-competitive to cable, and is a sellout to the special interests of network broadcasters. EchoStar has worked hard for the last three years to try and offer millions of Americans their local channels, but Congress has been heavily influenced by the high-dollar lobbyists of the network broadcasters and has created a bill that limits consumer channel choices and takes more money out of the consumer's pocket.
EchoStar, a leading satellite television provider of DISH Network™ programming, first approached Congress with the intent to protect the rights of consumers and to seek competition to the rising rates and poor customer service of cable television. But this bill, if passed into law, may result in the shut-off of distant network channels for hundreds of thousands of subscribers, will force small companies like EchoStar to pay more for network programming than cable does, and endangers channel choices for consumers who want to watch popular sports programming and out-of-market Superstation programs. The current bill also limits EchoStar's ability to negotiate retransmission consent agreements and fees with local broadcasters.
In order to provide effective competition to cable, EchoStar had asked Congress for the following provisions to be included in the current satellite legislation:
-- Grade B Standard: Congress and the Federal Communications Commission should update the antiquated Grade B standard used to determine who may or may not receive a network signal by satellite. The current satellite legislation keeps the current rules in place for at least one more year. This further disenfranchises consumers who cannot qualify for network channels delivered by satellite due to an outdated standard that does not consider 1990s technologies.
-- Non-discrimination language: Under this bill, consumers suffer when satellite TV providers have to pay more for a broadcaster's signal than a cable provider pays. Congress failed to establish effective legislation that included non-discrimination language when considering retransmission agreements. The bill provides no language for broadcasters to deal fairly with satellite providers in negotiating the rights or fees to retransmit their signals. Unlike large companies like General Motors, smaller companies like EchoStar are at a disadvantage when it comes to paying higher prices than cable for network programming. This bill makes the business model economically impractical for satellite providers and forces the costs onto the consumers. While the bill did establish a phase-in period for acquiring retransmission consent, the bill did not include language for the broadcasters to deal fairly with satellite companies and includes a severe penalty at the end of the phase-in period.
-- Must-carry Requirements: The FCC and Congress must re-examine the feasibility of must-carry requirements for satellite providers. If must-carry restrictions are imposed by 2002, fewer markets can be served by satellite providers due to the capacity limitations of satellites.
This legislation clearly favors the self-interests of network
broadcasters over protecting the rights of millions of consumers who choose to receive their network channels by satellite. Without effective legislation, the network broadcasters and cable companies will continue their stranglehold on the rights of American consumers to have access to their network signals by satellite.