Texas Town Trades Name

For Free TV Service

The tiny town of Clark, Tex. -- 125 people in 55 homes -- just became Dish, Tex. -- 125 people in 55 homes, each loaded with a free satellite dish television system and digital recording device for the next 10 years.

It's an advertising ploy for Colorado-based EchoStar Communications Corp., operator of the Dish Network satellite TV system. But Dish Mayor Bill Merritt hopes it becomes a marketing boon for the town, 25 miles north of Fort Worth.

The permanent name change (actually, to the all-capitalized DISH, to match the service's logo) was approved unanimously last week by the then-Clark's two-member city council.

The deal with EchoStar represents about $4,500 of free basic satellite TV service for each home over the next decade. Anyone who decides to annex a home to the town of Dish during the 10-year contract also will be eligible for the free service, said Merritt, whose goal is to expand the community into a city of 20,000 residents over the next 20 years. Because Dish is so small, it does not have the authority to annex adjacent homes or property in unincorporated areas. Property owners have to ask to join the town.

By week's end, Merritt was on his way to realizing his dream. "I have a list of 17 people in outlying areas close to our city, and they said 'We want in,' and they asked, 'How do we get in?' " he said. "I've got the town attorney looking into it."

-- Sylvia Moreno

Bill Merritt, left, mayor of Dish, Tex., stands with Michael Neuman, president of Dish Network, after unveiling a sign for the newly renamed town.