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Fla. Station Makes Odd Bid for HDTV

It could be the strangest carriage fight in America: A new TV station in Florida is seeking analog carriage on local cable systems, but high-definition TV carriage on direct-broadcast satellite carrier EchoStar Communications Corp.

There's nothing Adelphia Communications Corp. and other cable systems in the area can do, because the Federal Communications Commission has already ruled that digital-only stations like WHDT-DT in Stuart, Fla., can insist on analog cable carriage for at least the next few years.

But WHDT-DT — which began broadcasting in HDTV five months ago — has filed a complaint with the FCC arguing that EchoStar must carry the station's signal in high-definition format.

WHDT-DT argued that under federal law, EchoStar was required to carry all stations in its market once it elected to carry any of them.

EchoStar, which responded to the complaint on Oct. 16, is apparently willing to carry WHDT-DT in standard definition, arguing that the HD format is a bandwidth hog that diminishes its ability to serve other markets with any local TV signals.

EchoStar also asserts that the FCC has not specifically addressed DBS carriage of digital-only TV stations.

WHDT, an independent station owned by Guenter Marksteiner, broadcasts locally produced programming and international news from German network Deutsche Welle, translated into English.