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Fed judges dismiss EchoStar's conspiracy claims

The Federal District Court in Miami Wednesday threw out nearly all of EchoStar
Communications Corp.'s counterclaims against broadcasters in an ongoing legal
battle over the satellite-TV provider's importation of out-of-town network
signals into local markets five years ago.

The counterclaims were a response to a lawsuit brought by broadcast networks
and local network affiliates in the fall of 1998.

The broadcasters alleged that EchoStar violated the Satellite Home Viewer
Improvement Act by illegally providing distant network signals to subscribers
already served by local broadcast stations.

EchoStar's subsequent counterclaim alleged unfair competition and conspiracy
to interfere with EchoStar's business relationships.

The court ruled, however, that EchoStar proved neither intent to commit harm
on the part of broadcasters nor any actual harm done to EchoStar.

One EchoStar counterclaim remains -- a request for a declaratory ruling that it
did not violate the SHVIA. Whether the law was violated will be the central issue of
the broadcasters' case.

The case is scheduled to go to trial the week of April 7.

Praising Wednesday's ruling, National Association of Broadcasters president
Eddie Fritts predicted that the court will soon hold EchoStar liable for "massive
violations of the SHVIA."