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DirecTv, NAB In Agreement On Bill

DirecTv is working with the National Association of Broadcasters to offer federal lawmakers drafting a new satellite bill possible solutions to various issues, including broadcasting local TV stations into local markets via satellite.

In a joint letter, lawmakers were told the NAB and DirecTv encourage the establishment of a local-into-local compulsory license and mandating the FCC to draft satellite must-carry rules, while taking into consideration the differences between cable and satellite, such as channel capacity.

The outline also calls for the removal from pending legislation of anti-discrimination provisions that would prevent broadcasters from charging satellite providers more than cable operators for retransmission consent. It also upholds the FCC’s prohibition of exclusive retransmission deals without any sunset period.

The DirecTv and NAB agreement supported continuing use of the Longley-Rice standard for determining viewer eligibility for distant network signals.

EchoStar was not a party in drafting the outline supported by DirecTv and the NAB. After the letter was issued, EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen criticized the effort saying it had “nothing to do with the creation of competition or consumer rights.” Ergen said the proposal reduces the ability of DBS providers to compete against cable and is contrary to the interests of consumers.

Ergen stressed that new legislation should offer a reasonable signal reception standard, adding that the DirecTv/NAB agreement leaves the issue of defining Grade B signals unchanged. He also protested the proposed removal of anti-discriminatory language that would protect satellite providers from paying more for retransmission consent than cable operators are asked to pay.

Earlier, DirecTv, C-Band companies and Primetime 24 reached an agreement with the four major broadcast networks to delay through July 30 the cutoff of distant network signals for subscribers who have access to local signals off air. The networks said they needed more time to evaluate waiver requests.