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SATV-FCC local TV carriage fight heats up

The satellite TV industry last week appealed the FCC's local TV carriage rules in federal court, which will hear arguments on the case this Friday.

The Satellite Broadcasting and Communications Association and EchoStar Communications Corp. each filed separate suits, SBCA in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., and EchoStar in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. Both suits make the same arguments, saying the FCC's rules requiring satellite TV companies to carry all local TV stations in all local markets they serve are unconstitutional. EchoStar says the rules violate both the First and Fifth Amendments because they force satellite TV companies to carry particular programming and because they are an unlawful taking of property in the form of satellite capacity.

In the lawsuits filed last week, SBCA and EchoStar are challenging FCC rules, which are written as an extension of the law. SBCA has a similar lawsuit pending in a federal district court in Alexandria, Va., in which SBCA is challenging the law as written and passed by Congress in November 1999.

This Friday, that court will hear arguments from the satellite industry asking the court to determine the lawsuit in its favor without a trial, and from the broadcast industry to dismiss the suit altogether.
- Paige Albiniak