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NAB, EchoStar Duel Over Dual Dishes

The National Association of Broadcasters is accusing EchoStar Communications Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen of misleading lawmakers over the company's "two-dish" policy, which requires subscribers to install a second antenna if they want to receive all of a market's local TV stations.

Without a second dish, subscribers often have access only to a market's most popular stations. In a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman John McCain and ranking Democrat Ernest Hollings, NAB lobbyist John Orlando complained about Ergen's May 4 testimony about pending satellite TV legislation before the committee.
Ergen wrongly implied EchoStar's policy was consistent with the intent of the 1999 "carry one, carry all" law requiring DBS companies to offer all the local channels in a market or none, Orlando said. He also criticized Ergen for implying that the two-dish practice resulted from a "compromise" between DBS operators and local TV stations. "Both of these assertions are patently false," Orlando wrote.
EchoStar officials counter that NAB is being misleading about Ergen's statements. By "compromise," Ergen meant simply that EchoStar implements the practice flexibly enough to ensure consumers won't be hurt. One example: offering customers free installation of the second dish.
As for complaints that the two-dish policy violates the spirit of the carry-one, carry-all law, a majority of FCC commissioners has largely upheld the practice, although with some revisions. The NAB's complains are "revisionist history," Caulk says. "In reality, broadcasters were involved in all talks leading up to the final legislation, including removal of language that would have prohibited the two-dish practice."