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Court denies EchoStar appeal

The firm had sought to overturn an injunction barring the transmitting of network TV signals.

January 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court refused Monday to consider an appeal by satellite television provider EchoStar Communications Corp. of a nationwide injunction barring it from transmitting network television signals.

The court's decision is the latest step in a nine-year legal battle between Englewood, Colo.-based EchoStar, which operates the DISH satellite network, and the major television broadcast networks and their affiliates. Federal law allows satellite television companies to provide network signals to their customers who are unable to receive local network broadcasts. Such customers are usually rural residents who live beyond local network broadcast areas.

The TV networks -- including Fox Broadcasting, owned by News Corp., and affiliates of NBC, CBS and ABC -- have argued, however, that EchoStar has violated the law by providing signals to customers who are able to receive the broadcasts through regular antennas.

A federal appeals court ordered a lower court to impose the injunction in May and the injunction took effect Dec. 1. The appeals court also strongly criticized EchoStar, noting that "we have found no indication that EchoStar was ever interested in complying" with the law.

In its filing with the Supreme Court, EchoStar argued that the injunction unfairly prevented approximately 850,000 of its customers who were eligible to receive the network broadcasts from viewing network television.

Meanwhile, EchoStar also said in November that it had provided satellite capacity to a separate company, National Programming Service. The National Assn. of Broadcasters, which represents the major networks, has accused EchoStar of circumventing the injunction by allowing the disputed network signals to be transmitted by National Programming over EchoStar's equipment.

The broadcasters association sought to block EchoStar's partnership with National Programming by filing a cease and desist order in a federal court in Florida on Nov. 30. EchoStar responded by accusing the group of seeking to "bully consumers and the courts."

A spokeswoman for EchoStar would not comment on the Supreme Court's decision. A call to the broadcasters group seeking comment was not returned.

Shares of EchoStar rose 58 cents, or 1.51%, to $38.95.

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