EchoStar-Backed Group Pushing for HDTV

A group backed by EchoStar Communications Corp. is continuing to press Congress for the right to distribute HDTV feeds of NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox to satellite consumers around the country who are allegedly unable to pick up the same programming locally with antennas.

The group, the Digital Television Coalition, sent all members of the House a letter warning that pending legislation failed to include a provision that would allow satellite companies, including EchoStar and DirecTV Inc., to provide distant-network signals in HD.

“With this provision, millions of Americans, especially consumers in rural areas, will have to wait even longer for digital and HD television,” the letter said.

The coalition claimed that nearly 40 million households can’t receive the four major networks in digital from their local stations. It accused broadcasters of defaulting on their promise to use spectrum loaned by the federal government to build digital-TV stations and serve their entire communities.

The National Association of Broadcasters, which is strongly opposed to the coalition’s HD-importation proposal, insisted that local stations have kept their commitments by making digital TV widely available throughout the country

In July, an NAB member told a House subcommittee that there were 1,411 digital-TV stations on-air, serving 207 markets that that include 99% of all U.S. television households, and that 88% of TV households “are in markets served by five or more digital-television signals.”