B’casters win DBS battle

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters won a preliminary victory in a Miami federal court Wednesday as a magistrate judge agreed that PrimeTime 24 should not be allowed to sell programming packages that include network signals to DBS subscribers.

PrimeTime 24 is one of the country’s largest provider of distant market TV station signals.

A group of broadcasters —including CBS, CBS affiliates and Post-Newsweek stations — claimed in a lawsuit that the PrimeTime 24 has been infringing their copyrights by providing DBS subscribers with network signals from distant markets. The preliminary ruling will now go to a federal judge who may accept, reject or amend the magistrate judge’s decision.

The magistrate recommended that PrimeTime 24 should be ordered to stop selling the programming anywhere in the U.S. Local stations claim PrimeTime 24 is violating the Satellite Home Viewers Act, which prohibits the sale of a distant market signal unless the subscriber can not receive a local network signal.

With the growth of the DBS industry during the last three years, millions of subscribers now have the option of watching the network programming on their local station or on a station that could be located in a city thousands of miles away via their DBS dish.

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