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Fritts slams EchoStar

EchoStar should not be allowed to import TV networks' digital signals into
local TV markets for any reason, NAB President Eddie Fritts on Wednesday told
FCC Michael Powell.

"While there are many things the FCC can and should do
to facilitate the digital transition, entertaining Mr. Ergen's proposal is not
one of them," Fritts wrote.

Fritts and the NAB are responding to a proposal EchoStar Chairman Charlie Ergen sent the FCC last month, in which Ergen said the commission should incent local stations to speed their transition to digital by allowing satellite TV companies to import networks' digital signals to all satellite TV subscribers until local affiliates are up and running with digital.

At that time, EchoStar would air the digital signals of local stations. "Under our proposal, a broadcaster who fails to meet its digital deadline would not be able to receive relief from the Commission while denying consumers digital television," Ergen wrote.

NAB is concerned that EchoStar is attempting to serve its own interests at the expense of TV stations, saying Ergen is trying to force TV stations to give up exclusive rights over their viewing markets, something TV stations have fought hard to protect. - Paige Albiniak