On Monday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals handed broadcasters a legal defeat, ruling that a transponder lease agreement between EchoStar and the National Programming Service (NPS) complies with tenets of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) that allow direct broadcast satellite (DBS) operators to provide distant network signals to customers who are unable to access local affiliates over-theair. The decision stems from a lawsuit dating back to 1998, when the CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox broadcast networks first accused EchoStar of illegally providing distant network service to households that were capable of receiving the signals of local stations. In 2003, a Miami federal district court sided with the broadcasters and determined that EchoStar had violated SHVIA’s statutory license and had also engaged in “willful or repeated” copyright infringement. The Eleventh Circuit later upheld that decision, prompting the district court to enter an injunctive order that prohibits EchoStar from providing distant network programming to more than 800,000 customers nationwide. Days before the injunction went into effect, however, EchoStar agreed to lease Ku-band transponder capacity to NPS, which said it would use the leased capacity to enable affected EchoStar subscribers to regain access to distant network signals. Charging that the arrangement violated the injunction, the broadcasters sought relief before the district court, which ruled in favor of NPS last year. Upholding the district court, the Eleventh Circuit panel affirmed the legality of the lease agreement as Circuit Judge Charles Wilson proclaimed that, “EchoStar is out of the distant network programming business.” Declaring that “the court’s opinion vindicates our legitimate right to engage in the secondary transmission market,” NPS CEO Michael Mountford said, “we are extraordinarily pleased with the ruling.”