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Congress forces satellite HD feed of public channels

pbsYesterday, the US congress passed a bill with an amendment stating DISH Network must carry public/non-commercial broadcasting stations in HD.  Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said that DISH Network needs to follow what DirecTV already does.  Eshoo said that she’s “given the company ample time to negotiate with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and should no longer be allowed to ‘discriminate’ against public broadcasting.”  Of course leave it to a Democrat from California to push hard for public broadcasting.  That will be her ace in the hole once election time rolls around again.  But I digress…I guess it would be only fair to have both satellite giants carrying public broadcasting in HD.

However, today, in a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee DISH Network executive vice president and general counsel R. Stanton Dodge said the company “would not be able to comply with a proposal that it deliver all non-commercial stations’ HD signals by 2011 in markets where it delivers any local station HD signals.”

Dodge said that without proper compensation, DISH Network would be unable to comply until it launches its new satellite at the end of 2012.  DISH Network’s $350 million satellite is scheduled for launch by February 2013.  The FCC as laid out a specific transition schedule to transition from digital to HD:  15% of markets by 2010, 30% by 2011, 60% by 2012 and 100% by 2013.  While it might seem to be a smooth process to transition, DISH claims that they already deliver standard feeds of PBS stations to 181 market, which is more than DirecTV or any other provider.

Public broadcasting has always taken a back seat when it comes to programming.  Viewers who watch public programming are stereotyped as left-wing hippy tree-hugging environmentalists who still think this is the 70s.  There’s almost no incentive for DISH to comply when they can drag their feet, file more delays, and drown the government in paperwork, procrastinating till they launch their new satellite.  This stalemate is bound to be dragged out as long as possible.  PBS and others will probably win out eventually but right now, it’ll just be a back and forth game.

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