EchoStar bristles at court ruling

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WASHINGTON -- The nation's second-biggest satellite TV company isn't taking the so-called "death penalty" lying down. EchoStar said it plans to fight a decision by a federal judge telling it to quit beaming distant network signals to local subscribers.

A district court late Friday in Miami ordered the company to end out-of-market station feeds of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox programming to 800,000 subscribers nationwide.

U.S. District Judge William Dimitrouleas' ruling in the long-running case comes after the Engelwood, Colo.-based company has reached a settlement with all but News Corp.-owned Fox. News Corp. also owns DirecTV, the nation's top satellite TV company.

"Over the nine-year course of the litigation, EchoStar was able to reach settlements with seven of the eight plaintiffs, representing approximately 90% of all television network stations in the U.S.," the company said. "We are disappointed the judge concluded that given the statutory language he was required to ignore those settlements and impose the injunction."

The company said it planned to appeal the ruling in court and in Washington.

"EchoStar will continue to do everything possible to prevent consumers from losing their distant network channels," the company said. "We will ask Congress to clarify the statutory language and ask the courts to reconsider their decision. In addition, we are taking numerous steps to protect our customers from unnecessarily losing access to those channels."

Federal law prohibits all satellite and cable companies from providing these channels to consumers except in very limited circumstances. EchoStar offers local ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox channels by satellite in 175 markets, serving more than 95% of the U.S.
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