LITTLETON, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--July 1, 1999--In the wake of
cable deregulation, it is particularly important that any legislation
emerging from the 106th Congress bolster competition to cable and
protect the rights of consumers.
EchoStar Communications Corporation (Nasdaq/NMS:DISH) will
continue its efforts to fight for the rights of consumers and for true
competition to cable. We are confident that the conferees, who have
yet to even hold their first formal meeting, will recognize that the
pressures which led to the pact between the National Association of
Broadcasters and DirecTv have nothing to do with the creation of
competition or consumer rights.
Rather, this agreement is a theatrical ploy which, under the
guise of a private agreement, was intended to upstage the serious
policy deliberations of the House and Senate Conference. We are
confident that the conferees will develop a national competition
policy that benefits all Americans, not just the special interests of
two private parties.
While there are a few helpful provisions in the NAB/DirecTv
agreement, those provisions were previously agreed upon by virtually
all of the members of the committees. For example, the NAB pact touts
elimination of the 90-day waiting period for cable subscribers before
they can purchase network channels by satellite.
But over the past year, not even the cable special interest
groups have tried to defend that anti-competitive provision, already
slated for elimination in both the House and Senate versions of the
bill. Plus, the NAB pact would replace immediate action for consumers
who need signal strength tests before buying network channels with an
expensive newly created bureaucracy that substantially delays service
to the consumer.
On the other hand, many of the elements outlined in the
NAB/DirecTv agreement reduce the ability of satellite to compete
against cable and are contrary to the interests of consumers.
For example, codification of the Grade B standard, which was
created in the 1950s when any signal was a good signal, would result
in the termination of service to hundreds of thousands of current
satellite customers and would deny network channels to millions of
consumers who will be looking to satellite in the future as an
alternative to rising cable rates and poor cable service.
Instead, the legislation should direct the FCC to protect
consumers and balance the interests of all by expeditiously creating a
reasonable signal reception standard appropriate to the digital age.
Similarly, while cable is currently permitted to sell distant
network channels to customers located more than 35 miles from the
local station, the NAB/DirecTv pact would prohibit satellite from
offering those same channels to those same consumers. This seriously
undermines the legislative goal of fostering competition to cable. DBS
should be able to offer the same programming that cable can.
Likewise, if satellite has to pay more than cable for the same
programming, consumers won't have a real alternative to rising cable
rates. DBS needs simple protections like the anti-discrimination
language in the proposed legislation. Under the NAB/DirecTv pact, the
non-discrimination language would be eliminated and consumers will
lose. Anti-discrimination language is key to any final law that seeks
to make direct broadcast satellite competitive to cable.
Despite the anti-consumer agreement between DirecTv and the NAB,
EchoStar will continue to encourage Congress and the Senate and House
Conferees to fight for the rights of consumers and for a true
alternative to cable. It is unfortunate that DirecTv capitulated to
the pressures of the powerful network broadcast lobby.
EchoStar strongly believes that a reasonable signal reception
standard and elimination of must-carry and other issues are important
measures that must be included in any final law in order for consumers
to have a true choice against the rising costs and poor customer
service of cable television.
CONTACT: EchoStar Communications Corp. Judianne Atencio, 303/723-2010 firstname.lastname@example.org Marc Lumpkin, 303/723-2020 email@example.com