Cross-country snub

High court boots EchoStar city-to-city appeal

EchoStar was forbidden Monday from distributing over-the-air broadcasts from city to city after the Supreme Court refused to hear a 5-year-old case the satcaster lost on appeal.

The company had argued that satellite subscribers in Denver, for example, should be able to get local New York news on TV as easily as they can buy a copy of the New York Times. Forbidding access to stations from distant markets violated the First Amendment, EchoStar claimed.

An appeals court, however, had previously upheld a law, favored by broadcasters, that says local stations must stay in local markets and restricts dish owners from receiving signals from distant markets.

Awaits another ruling

The nation’s No. 2 satellite provider is still awaiting an even more crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to review a case regarding the so-called “must carry” provisions. Starting next January, satcasters will be forced to carry either all local stations in a market or none at all.

EchoStar, which is planning to merge with larger rival DirecTV, must carry local stations to compete effectively with cable. But the company wants the option of limiting its local carriage to stations that provide “meaningful content,” including network affiliates and some independents.

EchoStar claimed the “all or none” reg also violated the First Amendment.

The National Assn. of Broadcasters, Univision, the Assn. of Public Television Stations, the Corp. for Public Broadcasting and PBS filed papers last week urging the Supreme Court to reject EchoStar’s petition.

EchoStar has said it is committed to offering local channels in all 210 U.S. television markets when it merges with DirecTV. The deal is being scrutinized by the Dept. of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.