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IN BRIEF / ENTERTAINMENT

Disney Denies Threat to Block Satellite TV Deal

December 29, 2001|Richard Verrier

In the latest twist surrounding a bitter contract dispute over the ABC Family cable channel, Walt Disney Co. denied that one of its executives had threatened to block EchoStar's proposed merger with DirecTV through a "March on Washington."

In a court filing, Disney Senior Vice President Peter Murphy said under oath that he never made such a threat, though he acknowledged discussing with an EchoStar executive the regulatory connection between EchoStar's plan to drop the family channel and its pending merger with DirecTV.

Disney was responding to a court filing by EchoStar on Thursday which alleged that Disney threatened to lobby against the satellite company's bid for DirecTV if EchoStar failed to reach an agreement to carry ABC Family.

Disney acquired the channel last month in a $5.2-billion deal with Fox Family Worldwide and is suing EchoStar to prevent it from dropping the channel by the end of December.

EchoStar argues that its action is justified because of a provision that allows the cable contract to be terminated due to a change of ownership.

But Friday, Disney argued there was not a change of ownership because the channel's parent company remains intact.

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Richard Verrier

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