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DBS Services Add Public Channels

Direct-broadcast satellite providers DirecTV Inc. and EchoStar Communications Corp. last month beefed up their public-interest programming by adding several commercial-free channels.

DirecTV in December added Brigham Young University Television, which features sports, concerts and devotionals from BYU and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in mid-December. DirecTV last month also added The Word Network, an urban religious channel, which will be broadcast from 101 degrees west.

The DBS provider now carries 11 public-interest channels, including C-SPAN, Eternal Word Television Network and NASA TV.

Because BYU TV is broadcast from DirecTV's satellite at 119 degrees west longitude, customers would need a slightly larger dish than the company's standard 18-inch model to receive it.

EchoStar last month added five public-interest channels to its Dish Network lineup: Panhandle Area Educational Consortium and The Early Childhood Network (both from 61.5 degrees west); California Community Colleges Network and Family Star Learning Network (from 110 degrees west); and Rural Farm Broadcasting TV (from 119 degrees west).

Dish Network's core service broadcasts from 119 degrees. "Dish 500" system owners can access programming from both 110 and 119 degrees using a single, slightly larger dish. A second dish is required to access channels from 61.5 degrees.

The five additions bring Dish's total public-interest channel count to 19. Some of its others include BYU TV, Trinity Broadcasting Network and PBS YOU.

Under Federal Communications Commission rules, DBS companies must set aside at least 4 percent of their channels for public-interest programming. DirecTV and EchoStar have added commercial services to their lineups in the past year, so the new networks were required to maintain the 4-percent level.