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Liberty/DirecTV Gets Industry Review

The National Association of Broadcasters has not reached a decision on the transfer of News Corp.'s share of DBS company DirecTV to Liberty, but it wants to know whether Liberty plans to honor a standing pledge to carry local TV stations.

Echoing the concerns of North Dakota Broadcasters, the NAB said it was concerned by the transfer applications  silence on the promise made by News Corp. when it bought the DirecTV stake to provide local TV stations in all 210 markets by the end of 2008.

While North Dakota Broadcasters , particularly ones in Minot-Bismarck-Dickinson where DirecTV does not carry the local TV stations, have asked the commission to deny the deal unless that pledge is made explicit, NAB simply wants the FCC to ask the question.

NAB points out that the FCC did not make that service a condition of the News Corp. purchase of DirecTV, but called it "an important part of News Corp.’s public interest showing."

In other FCC filings on the proposed deal, Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America, Media Access Project and Free Press all argued for imposing "non-exclusivity, program access and binding arbitration conditions" similar to those the FCC imposed when News Corp. bought the stake from Hughes .

Not surprisingly, in a lengthy filing, DirecTV's competitor EchoStar filed a petition to deny the deal. They called it controversial and "untenable" without a host of program access conditions, including to regional sports networks.

That call comes just as the Senate Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on access to sports programming, driven by DirecTV's deal with Major League Baseball for a potentially exclusive package of out-of-market baseball games that have previously been carried by a number of cable systems .