Group Supports DBS Must-Carry Plan, DISH Reaches Out to APTS

A phased-in approach for DBS delivery of local HD signals has won the support of an advocacy group.

Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and CEO of the Media Access Project, said the group supports the compromise offered by DIRECTV and DISH Network concerning implementation of an HD locals must carry obligation for satellite TV. "They have offered a measured approach that provides a clear roadmap to full HD must carry compliance in all HD markets within a reasonable timeframe," Schwartzman said in a statement.

The Federal Communications Commission is scrutinizing rules that would require DBS platforms to deliver all local HD signals in markets they choose to serve with local high-def services. The matter could surface at the FCC's meeting March 19.

Specifically, DIRECTV and DISH proposed that for any carry-one, carry-all local HD rule, a phase-in process could cover 15 percent of markets served by a DBS service a year after the digital TV transition in February 2009. That would increase to 30 percent two years after the switch, 60 percent three years after the transition, and then all HD markets served by a DBS platform four years after the DTV change.

Schwartzman said the proposal "protects existing services to consumers, and ensures that DBS providers will offer a viable competitive choice to cable companies." He added, "We would be concerned with any regulatory solution that did not ensure continuity of existing services to all 30 million DBS subscribers."

Meanwhile, DISH Network this week reached out to the Association of Public Television Stations concerning carriage of public broadcasters on its DBS service.

In a letter to APTS executives, DISH said its proposals for carriage of the stations warrant consideration. Also, "Because our subscribers and your viewers would both benefit from carriage of PBS content in HD, we believe that reaching a mutually beneficial agreement is possible," the DISH letter stated.

DISH suggested a meeting in the offices of Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) to further discuss program carriage proposals.