President Clinton on Monday signed into law a measure allowing satellite television services to offer their subscribers hundreds of local broadcast stations.
The two leading services, Hughes Electronics Corp.'s DirecTV and EchoStar Communications Corp., responded by immediately making available local channels in Los Angeles and New York, and made plans to roll out the service in the 20 largest markets soon.
By allowing satellite firms to carry local channels, the law aims to foster greater competition for land-based cable operators that already carry all local stations.
Consumer groups said the law could help curb cable service price increases, which have run at more than three times the rate of inflation in recent years.
Meanwhile, Hughes Electronics shares rose 6.1% on Monday amid speculation that General Motors Corp. might sell part of its stake in the company, analysts said. GM Hughes surged $5.13 to a record $90.06, and GM shares gained $2.94 to $74.31, both on the New York Stock Exchange.
GM's board may approve the sale of at least part of the company's 69% stake in Hughes at its board meeting Dec. 6, the financial publication Barron's reports in this week's edition. Speculation about such a sale has been frequent in the last two months.
DirecTV, based in El Segundo, is the satellite market leader, with 7.8 million customers.