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NAB Opposes EchoStar Distant-Signal Injunction Delay

National Association of Broadcasters President David Rehr says the association is opposing any extension of EchoStar's deadline for the court-ordered dropping of its delivery of distant network TV station signals.

EchoStar asked for a 120-day extension of a Florida District Court's Oct. 20 order that it no longer deliver distant network signals to its customers as of Dec. 1.

Rehr said he was been coordinating with interested board members--they are meeting this week in Washington--and that NAB plans to send a letter to the Hill opposing any extension and asking Congress not to weigh in and to let the injunction take effect.

Rehr said he hopes the market "works through the illegals EchoStar has been retaining."

EchoStar is not allowed to deliver distant TV network signals to homes that can get a sufficiently strong signal from a local affiliate of that network. It is the company's ability, or inability in the court's view, to properly distinguish between the two that prompted the order to pull the plug on all distant signals.

EchoStar says the injunction could affect more than 800,000 subs, but NAB believes the impact will be minimal given that the majority of those subs have other alternatives including cable or DirecTV. "The court has ruled, let's let the law work its will," he said.

The NAB move is just the latest move in a long-running copyright dispute between broadcasters and satellite companies over homes located in the fringes of TV markets. TV stations want to reach every home in their areas. But subscribers in fringe areas often prefer their satellite companies to deliver stations from, say, New York City rather than Hartford, Conn.

According to law, EchoStar--and DirecTV--are permitted to deliver so-called "distant" network signals only to homes that cannot receive a sufficiently clear signal from their local affiliate of that network. But EchoStar’s method of determining which customers were eligible for the distant signals has been a bone of contention-- and litigation-- for years.

Broadcasters complained that EchoStar abuses the rules and violates the Satellite Home Viewer Act by regularly delivering out of market stations in competition to local stations in the market that carry the same network programming. The courts agreed, and EchoStar was ordered to stop delivering the signals to all of its customers, not just those disputed ones.