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Satellite loses must-carry decision

Satellite-TV companies must carry all local TV stations in all local markets
they choose to serve, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.,
ruled Friday.

'We hold, as did the district court, that the carry-one, carry-all rule does
not violate either the First Amendment or the other constitutional provisions
cited by the satellite carriers,' the court wrote.

'We also hold that the [Federal Communications Commission's] a la carte rule,
which allows satellite carriers to offer local broadcast stations to their
subscribers either individually or as part of a single package, is not
arbitrary, capricious, or contrary to law,' the court added.

The decision hands broadcasters another big win in the ongoing fight over
multichannel carriage of local broadcast signals.

'[The National Association of Broadcasters] is pleased that the Fourth
Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the will of Congress recognizing the unique
value provided by free local television stations,' NAB president Eddie Fritts

'This is a New Year's Day gift for DBS [direct-broadcast satellite]
subscribers -- on Jan. 1, they will begin receiving all local stations in
markets where `local-to-local' service is being offered,' he added. 'We fully
expect that EchoStar [Communications Corp.] and DirecTV [Inc.] will now follow
the law and carry all television signals in markets where they are charging
customers for access to any local stations.'

Meanwhile, the satellite-TV industry considered its options, including
appealing the decision to the Supreme Court.

'This is a tremendous loss for consumers and competition in small and
midsized markets because it limits the ability of [Hughes Electronics Corp.'s]
DirecTV and EchoStar's Dish Network to roll out local broadcast service in
additional markets,' said Andy Wright, acting president of the Satellite
Broadcasting & Communications Association

'The SBCA, DirecTV, EchoStar and the many programmers that support our legal
challenge to satellite must-carry are reviewing the details of the decision and
will explore all of our legal options,' Wright added.