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FCC Gives Satellite Providers Some HD Slack

Washington — The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has agreed to relax conditions for carriage of local HDTV stations by satellite TV providers, recognizing the special technological burdens providers carry.

In the decision, satellite operators would not have to immediately meet all the conditions imposed on cable TV operators, including carrying all local broadcast stations in full resolution in markets served with local signals. Instead, satellite operators will be temporarily allowed to downconvert some local HD television signals to a lower quality to save on bandwidth.

DirecTV and Dish Network have both said they need several years to increase their capacity enough to carry all local stations in HD, but would be willing to add local HD channels on a phased-in basis.

Under the FCC’s revised conditions, satellite operators will have until 2013 to address full HD requirements.