Kennard urges delay on satcast sig cutoff

B'casters worried about subscriber backlash

WASHINGTON — FCC chairman Bill Kennard told congressional leaders Friday that a federal court “can and should” postpone the planned cutoff of network signals for satcast subscribers until Feb. 1.

In his letter to the heads of the Senate and House Commerce committees, Kennard did not say if his agency would intervene in the Miami court case. Sources said a final decision will be made this week on whether the FCC will ask the court to extend the deadline.

Broadcasters last month won their lawsuit against PrimeTime24, which resulted in a court order requiring the satcaster to cut off its network signals to about a 1 million subscribers on Oct. 8.

Backlash concerns

But now that broadcasters have won their case, they are worried about the backlash from irate subscribers who will suddenly lose access to network signals.

Also concerned are members of Congress who are up for re-election less than a month after the signals are scheduled to go dark.

Broadcasters brought their lawsuit because the growth of the DBS industry has resulted in more than a million viewers suddenly having access to network signals from stations in other markets.

Bypassing the locals

General managers are growing increasingly concerned that their viewers are able to watch network programming without tuning into the local station.

Broadcasters offered to voluntary extend the deadline until Jan. 1, but satcasters turned it down, noting the court order clearly states that Oct. 8 is the cutoff date. Kennard called on broadcasters and satcasters to work out the issue among themselves.

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