Satcaster blasts broadcaster in FCC letter

EchoStar is crying foul at the FCC, claiming that “a broadcast group,” which sources confirm is NBC, wants to link an agreement to retransmit the Peacock web’s local station signals to a $500 million Olympic programming package.

Although EchoStar does not name NBC, it complained in a letter to the FCC that a “broadcast group” is demanding that the satcaster buy the Olympic programming and also agree to hefty hikes in the fees it pays for MSNBC and CNBC. Although the FCC letter does not refer specifically to NBC, the Olympics or the cable channels, several sources confirmed the subtext of the document.

Anti-competish claims

EchoStar claims that broadcasters are trying to use “their market power to extract anti-competitive advantages over DBS providers, like EchoStar.” In the same letter, EchoStar urged the FCC to enact rules that would prohibit broadcasters from “discriminatory and anti-competitive conduct, such as bad faith negotiations.”

In a statement released Tuesday, NBC said it had offered similar deals to cable companies and EchoStar’s satcasting rival DirecTV. “EchoStar has rejected this proposal and is now seeking to abuse the regulatory process in order to get special advantage compared to their satellite and cable competitors,” NBC maintained.

Retransmit rules

The FCC is about to release rules that govern the negotiations between satellite companies such as EchoStar and broadcasters for the right to retransmit their local signals. Such a ruling was required by Congress in legislation passed early this year. That legislation allows satcasters to offer local TV channels for the first time, but requires satellite companies such as EchoStar and its larger rival DirecTV to secure permission from broadcasters to resell their signals.

Unlike EchoStar, which only has a retransmission consent deal with Fox — an agreement secured as part of an unrelated settlement between the two companies — DirecTV has deals with ABC and NBC. But the clock is running down on EchoStar and DirecTV, as the law passed by Congress gives satcasters six months to secure agreements with broadcasters and the May 29 deadline is now less than three months away.

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