Dec. 13, 2006 – The federal courts have blocked some satellite television broadcasts of network programs, previously received in the Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Congress is trying to remedy the situation.
The distribution of major network programming by way of disc receivers had long been the subject of a major, nationwide dispute between the networks, on one hand, and Echostar Communications, on the other.
The networks said that Echostar had been stealing the signals, and Echostar replied that some of its recipients could not receive the programs in any other way, being beyond TV broadcast areas and, in some cases, miles from the nearest cable connection.
As of Dec. 1, the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida ruled "Echostar [and its allies] are hereby PERMANENTLY ENJOINED AND RESTRAINED [emphasis original] from the secondary transmission … of a performance … of any network station affiliated with ABC, Inc., CBS Broadcasting, Inc., Fox Broadcasting, or National Broadcasting Co."
The court ruling has no impact on viewers who receive TV signals from the usual broadcast towers or from cable hook-ups — only those using disc receivers.
Meanwhile, according to Delegate Donna Christensen's office, efforts are under way in Congress to introduce and pass legislation that would permit, under stipulated conditions, the revival of distant broadcasting to places like the Virgin Islands where viewers are unable, otherwise, to see the four major networks. An arrangement is contemplated whereby satellite broadcasters would pay for using the network broadcasting.
"There are people in the Virgin Islands, particularly on St. Croix, who have been using the distant broadcasting service that are in a situation where it would cost them thousands of dollars to run cable to their homes," explained Christensen aide Brian Modeste.
Congress is currently out of session but forward movement is anticipated in the next Congress, according to Modeste.
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