After much hemming and hawing it looks like EchoStar communications, which owns the Dish Network, will be buying Direct TV parent Hughes Electronics from GM. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. had tendered an offer for the network but pulled it after GM failed to make a decision at its last board meeting. Had News Corp. been successful the company would have succeeded in creating vertical integration in the direct-broadcast satellite (DBS) arena, adding US distribution to its stable of TV production houses, film studios and cable networks. News Corp. already operates DBS systems in Asia and Europe.
Instead, what we’ll see is the consolidation of the DBS duopoly into a monopoly. According to News.com the total DBS market in the US is 16 million subscribers, with Echostar being the smaller at 6 million. It’s unclear what competition there ever really was in this market, given that their offering tend to be pretty similar. One significant difference for indymedia folk is that Echostar carries FreeSpeech TV , a grassroots progressive TV network, as part of its public service obligation, making the network’s programming far more available to homes and to public access TV. Amongst many excellent independently produced programs, FreeSpeech TV carries the IMC Newsreel and the TV version of Democracy Now in Exile. One would hope that one possible good outcome of this merger will meant that this carriage will continue, and that perhaps FreeSpeech TV will become available to DirecTV subscribers.
Otherwise it’s just monopoly as usual.