Judge issues nationwide injuction for Dec. 1.
DISH Network parent company EchoStar Communications may have to stop selling out-of-market station feeds of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox programming to 800,000 subscribers due to a nationwide injunction issued last week by U.S. District Judge William P. Dimitrouleas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
EchoStar had settled the copyright dispute with all parties except Fox stations owned by News Corp. Siding with News Corp., the judge refused to issue an injunction that would have applied to just the 25 markets that have News Corp.-owned Fox stations.
Starting on the Dec. 1 deadline set by the judge, EchoStar customers that lose distant network service will have to access network programming by subscribing to cable, using an over-the-air antenna, or subscribing to a local signal package, if available. EchoStar customers who are legally entitled to buy distant signals could sign up for a package with DIRECTV.
"This is a clear setback for EchoStar. EchoStar's best hope now is that the appeals court will stay this Dec. 1 cutoff date and hear the appeal," said Paul Gallant, a media analyst with Stanford Washington Research Group.
EchoStar released the following statement after the ruling:
"Over the nine year course of the litigation, EchoStar was able to reach settlements with seven of the eight plaintiffs, representing approximately 90 percent of all television network stations in the United States. We are disappointed the judge concluded that given the statutory language he was required to ignore those settlements and impose the injunction.
EchoStar will continue to do everything possible to prevent consumers from losing their distant network channels. We will ask Congress to clarify the statutory language, and ask the courts to re-consider their decision. In addition, we are taking numerous steps to protect our customers from unnecessarily losing access to those channels.
EchoStar has over 12.46 million subscribers, less than one million of whom subscribe to distant network channels. Federal law prohibits all satellite and cable companies from providing these channels to consumers except in very limited circumstances. EchoStar currently offers local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox channels by satellite in 170 markets, serving over 96 percent of the U.S. population. These local networks are not part of the court injunction; therefore, a majority of our distant network customers will be able to watch their local network channels without interruption. In the limited areas where local channels are not available by satellite, we also intend to protect our customers by providing free off-air antennas and other alternatives."
Distant network channels are ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox broadcast channels that originate from a market outside the community in which a subscriber lives. The ruling does not involve, and there is no danger, that DISH Network customers will lose their local ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox network channels, or any of the other great programming available from EchoStar's DISH Network."
The company also said it will ask Congress to clarify communications laws in the wake of the court's ruling, as well as seek court review of the decision.