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A handful of broadcast station owners in Puerto Rico complained to the Federal Communications Commission this week about the pending merger between EchoStar and DirecTV and how their promise to deliver all local TV channels if they combine operations excludes the Caribbean island.

In February, EchoStar and DirecTV took the wraps off their "All Channels, All Americans" plan, in which the merged entity would provide local-into-local service to all 210 Designated Market Areas in the United States, including cities in Alaska and Hawaii. However, the station owners said the plan does not include "all Americans because it does not include a commitment to provide local-into-local service to the residents of Puerto Rico."

They said if the FCC doesn't require local TV service via satellite for Puerto Rico, "the residents and local television stations in Puerto Rico will not be able to enjoy the benefits of satellite broadcast television service that Congress intended when it enacted the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999."

Both EchoStar and DirecTV provide satellite TV service to Puerto Rico. According to the station owner comments, DirecTV provides its Puerto Rico subscribers with local Channel 2 (WKAQ in San Juan, Puerto Rico) and local Channel 11 (WLII in Caguas, Puerto Rico).

Those commenting on the local TV issue were R y F Broadcasting - licensee of WRFB in Carolina, Puerto Rico; Southwestern Broadcasting Corporation - licensee of WVEO in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico; and International Broadcasting Corporation - licensee of WVOZ-TV in Ponce, Puerto Rico and WAVB-TV in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

In response, EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin said the company would like to offer local TV channels in Puerto Rico, but faces challenges in delivering the stations to customers. One of the issues is the expense and difficulty of getting backhaul feeds of Puerto Rico TV stations to an EchoStar uplink center.

"There are hurdles that we face," Lumpkin said, "but we are working on it."

From SkyReport (Used with permission)
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