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Pappas Plays Hardball with EchoStar Over Transmission

Pappas Telecasting is playing hardball with EchoStar's DISH Network over retransmission of its signals by telling some 2 million viewers they may want to switch over to competitor DirecTV or cable to get their local station signals.

Pappas, which bills itself as the largest privately owned TV group in the country, warned viewers that as of Friday, Dec. 1, DISH customers will no longer have access to a number of Pappas'  stations after the TV station owner and EchoStar failed to negotiate a renewal of DISH's local carriage agreement. Pappas has agreements with DirecTV and local cable companies in the affected markets.

The move comes at the same time that EchoStar has been ordered by a court to yank all the distant network TV signals it delivers to those and other markets.

Pappas, with a mix of stations including Fox, ABC, CBS and Azteca America,  drove the point home by ticking off the big-ticket programs that various DISH customers could lose.

"The affected stations are the local broadcast homes of popular network programs such as American Idol, 24, House, NFL Football, the Bowl Championship Series, NCAA Football and Basketball, CSI, Desperate Housewives, Grey’s Anatomy, America’s Next Top Model, Smallville, 7th Heaven, Major League Soccer, and the 2007 Super Bowl."

It also pointed out that there was cable, over-the-air, DirecTV, and even telcos in its L.A. market that customers could still get local signals from.

EchoStar paid $100 million to settle a majority of stations over their complaint that it had illegally imported distant network affiliate stations to homes that could receive a sufficiently strong local station affiliate of that network. But a federal court ruled that, the settlement notwithstanding, Echostar had not demonstrated it could effectively distinguish between eligible and ineligible subs.

Barring some last-minute move, some 850,000 EchoStar customers will lose their distant signals Dec. 1. And now in Pappas markets, their local ones as well.

EchoStar sought help from Congress, and a bill was introduced that would effectively block the court injunction, citing the deleterious effect on TV viewers. But no action was taken before the congressional recess, which isn't over until next week.

According to Pappas, the affected markets are: KAZA/Los Angeles; KTNC/San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose; KAZH/Houston; WCWG/Greensboro-High Point-Winston Salem; KMPH and KFRE/Fresno-Visalia California; KCWI/Des Moines-Ames, Iowa; KPTM and KXVO/Omaha; KDBC/El Paso; KHGI and KTVG/Lincoln & Hastings-Kearney, Nebraska; KREN/Reno, Nevada; and KPTH and KMEG/Sioux City, Iowa.