The Federal Communications Commission approved rules to help satellite and cable television companies reach agreements with TV stations to carry their signals.
The law requires that broadcasters enter into "good faith" negotiations with satellite and TV companies, and the FCC rules spell out appropriate action by the broadcasters.
The rules are especially important for satellite TV companies such as EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV that face a May 29 deadline to reach retransmission agreements with broadcasters, or be forced to remove the signals from their systems. New laws passed in November to spur competition with cable operators gave satellite companies six months to reach agreements with local TV stations for carrying their signals.
EchoStar, which serves 3.6 million customers, has reached an agreement only with Fox's 22 station signals. Hughes Electronics Corp.'s DirecTV, which serves more than 8.2 million customers, has contracts with Walt Disney Co.'s ABC, General Electric Co.'s NBC and News Corp.'s Fox to air their local stations. Under the ABC agreement, DirecTV will also carry Disney's new 24-hour SoapNet cable channel.