ACA Pans Satellite Exemption

Small cable operators are speaking out against a House amendment that would give satellite carriers an antitrust exemption to promote delivery of local TV signals in rural markets.

The amendment, sponsored by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-Va.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), is designed to allow EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV Group Inc. to share scare spectrum so that all 210 TV markets can receive their local TV signals via satellite.

In a statement, American Cable Association president Matt Polka said the two direct-broadcast satellite companies would use the exemption to gang up on the small, independent cable operators his group represents.

“Regardless of how an amendment is tailored to prevent unfair competition, our members know what to expect from DBS. That's why the FCC and Department of Justice ruled that any combination of DirecTV and EchoStar would be against the public interest and would violate federal antitrust laws,” Polka said.

Polka's statement said the Boucher-Goodlatte amendment could come up for vote next week in the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering modifications to the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999.

Calls to Boucher's and Goodlatte's offices were not returned.