Public broadcasters lobby on carriage

Networks plea to Congress for sallelite TV signal

Local pubcasters are set to launch a lobbying blitz to convince Congress to mandate carriage of all their digital signals by satcasters DirecTV and EchoStar.

As the Assn. for Public Television Stations hosts its “Capitol Hill Day” this week, reps from local noncommercial broadcasters from around the country will converge on Congress to express their frustration that “the high-definition signals of commercial stations are carried by satellite distributors, while public television stations’ new digital signals are kept off,” according to an APTS statement.

They will therefore ask in the coming days that Congress support legislation requiring that DirecTV and EchoStar carry all local pubcasters’ HD and other digital programming during the transition to all-digital TV and after it is completed in February 2009.

“DirecTV and EchoStar use scarce public airwaves to beam their signals to and from satellites,” said APTS prexy-chief John Lawson in a statement. “They use highly valuable international orbital slots for these satellites. It’s outrageous that they won’t carry the new digital channels from local public stations but find a way to carry the Big Four commercial network stations. We’re asking Congress to remedy this huge breach of the public interest.”

APTS successfully negotiated carriage of all pubcasting digital signals with cablers in January 2005. DirecTV and EchoStar have shown a willingness to talk about a similar deal, but only recently and to no conclusion, according to APTS.

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