Dish Network has filed suit against the FCC, hoping to block implementation of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) of 2010, which was signed into law in May.
The basic aim of the law was to extend the blanket copyright protection that gives broadcasters permission to carry so-called distant signals – channels from out of a local broadcast area.
Dish in particular was supposed to be a beneficiary of the new law. Without it, Dish would have had to go through a third party to get distant signals, rather than rebroadcast them directly. Over the last two years or so, the company has routinely touted its ability to provide local signals in local markets.
Dish is objecting to a specific provision of the law that compels it to deliver the local PBS station in HD. Dish delivers the local PBS station in many markets, but not all. Dish is objecting to the provision essentially on a First Amendment basis and is asking for a temporary restraining order and injunction against implementation of the law.
Its suit reads: “Dish has traditionally exercised that editorial discretion to determine how to use its limited satellite bandwidth based upon its assessment of consumer demand. Congress has now stepped in to override Dish’s editorial choice with a mandate to carry local Public Broadcasting Service (“PBS”) stations in HD format, because Congress believes that this government-sponsored speech is more valuable to Dish’s subscribers than other programs that Dish might offer in HD or other uses to which Dish might put its scarce bandwidth.”
The law also contains a schedule for Dish to roll out local noncommercial (essentially PBS) stations, which Dish in the past has said it cannot meet.