SATELLITE SETTLEMENT

'Distant market signals' pact reached

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters have reached an agreement in principle with the satellite industry that would resolve the ongoing dispute over several satellite companies’ practice of importing signals from big cities into distant markets, sources confirmed Monday.

The agreement, which will be signed by Echostar, Netlink and PrimeStar Partners, will establish a ZIP code database that allows satellite programming retailers to determine which homes are qualified to subscribe to a package of programming that includes network signals from another market.

Not included in the agreement is satellite programmer PrimeTime 24, which has been sued separately by the ABC, CBS and NBC affiliate organizations.

Broadcasters insist that the satellite industry is routinely violating copyright law, which bars the sale of “distant market signals” that are within the reach of their local affiliates’ antenna. Under current law, homes that have access to cable or can receive an affiliate signal via antenna are not allowed to subscribe to programming that includes an out-of-market affiliate station.

Although the rules have been on the books for several years, the dynamic growth of the DBS industry has led to outrage in the broadcasting industry as hundreds of thousands of viewers suddenly had access to TV station signals which are sometimes thousands of miles away. Formal announcement of the agreement is expected today.

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