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Writers Guild Urges Rejection of EchoStar-DirecTV Merger

January 09, 2002|From Associated Press

The Writers Guild of America asked the Federal Communications Commission to reject a proposed merger of the country's two major satellite television companies, saying it could discourage diversity in programming.

"The continued separation of EchoStar and DirecTV is the only hope of having three competitors for television service to the typical home," the guild said in a statement, referring to cable television as the third choice. "Three is vitally better than two."

If EchoStar Communications Corp. merges its Dish Network with larger rival DirecTV, which is owned by General Motors Corp. unit Hughes Electronics Corp., the result will be a company with more than 17 million subscribers.

In a filing with the FCC, the guild also expressed concern about companies' being allowed to own broadcast and cable networks. The union, which represents television and film writers, asked the FCC to hold hearings in Hollywood before it relaxes rules restricting ownership of TV stations and networks.

"Fewer companies owning more stations, networks, cable outlets, satellites and product will not mean better television; it will only mean less diverse and less creative programming," said Herb Sargent, president of the WGA East.

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