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MAINE JOINS CASE TO BLOCK SATELLITE TV MERGER
November 13, 2002
OCTOBER 31, 2002 FRANCIS ACKERMAN, Assistant Attorney General 207-626-8847
Attorney General Steven Rowe announced today that his office has joined a lawsuit filed today in United States District Court in Washington, D.C., to block a proposed merger between the only two nationwide direct broadcast satellite (DBS) television providers. The lawsuit against EchoStar Communications Corporation and Hughes Electronic Corporation was brought by the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, joined by Rowe and the Attorneys General of 22 other states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The suit alleges that the proposed merger between EchoStar and Hughes would violate antitrust laws by taking away consumer options and placing the market for DBS customers in the hands of one corporation. EchoStar runs Dish Network, and Hughes runs DirecTV. Rowe said, "Mainers have very few options for television providers. The proposed elimination of competition between these two satellite companies does not benefit consumers, and the court should stop this merger." Assistant Attorney General Francis Ackerman, who is handling the case for Maine, said, "Dish Network and DirecTV compete with each other on many levels to attract consumers to switch from cable, including offering special packages of channels and discounts on services, installation and equipment. Without the competition of two DBS providers, that incentive to offer lower prices and better customer service is gone." Ackerman added that it would be extremely difficult and expensive for any new DBS competitors to enter the market, and that there are no DBS frequencies available that cover the entire continental United States so a competitor could offer a nationwide service. Earlier this month, the FCC announced that it would deny the application of EchoStar and Hughes for a license transfer. That denial, under FCC regulations, is a separate action from the lawsuit using federal antitrust statutes brought by the Department of Justice and the states. In addition to Maine, the group of states opposing the Echostar/Hughes merger includes Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin, as well as the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.