Beginning January 1 of 2002, if the satellite companies choose to run one local station, they must run all by law.
December 15, 2001 8:09 AM   Subscribe

Beginning January 1 of 2002, if the satellite companies choose to run one local station, they must run all by law. A Federal Appeals Court in Richmond, Virginia upheld an earlier decision that requires satellite television providers to carry all local public television stations if they choose to air any in a particular market. Among other programs, I'm thrilled to have Buffy and Enterprise DirecTiVo-able.
posted by chrish (15 comments total)
Don't be too thrilled too fast. Both EchoStar and Hughes (still the owners of DirecTV) say they don't have enough satellite capacity to carry every broadcast station in every market they serve. They say if they have to carry more than NBC, ABC, CBS, and FOX in the 35-40 markets they serve, they'll have to stop beaming all broadcast stations in smaller markets to make room for the home shopping channels and local religious channels in larger markets.

Then again, DirecTV has already allocated space for all 16 broadcast channels in San Francisco and apparently all of them in Dallas as well.

The majority feeling is that both Dish and DirecTV will get those extra channels on the satellites using unbelievably high compression, probably lowering the viewing quality for all local stations everywhere over the birds.

I'm in the Oklahoma City market (#37 in the country, I think), and neither EchoStar nor Hughes provides local stations over satellite; I use an antenna and deal with crappy NBC and ABC reception because of it. As much as I like the must-carry idea, I'm faced with the reality that it means I probably won't see locals over satellite any time in the next year, maybe longer.
posted by mdeatherage at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2001

I'm in Los Angeles, and a DirecTV customer service guy told me that I'll be getting UPN starting January 1, 2002.

I'm not sure I believe this limited compression thing. DirecTV is beaming out hundreds of channels already, including a bunch of DirecTV pay-per-view channels and a bunch of corporate porn channels like PlayboyTV, as well as about 30 different sports channels. I don't see why it would be such a huge sacrifice to stop beaming just one or two of those, if necessary to preserve bandwidth.

Ditto what Chrish said about Buffy and Enterprise. I've been watching the Buffy reruns in crystal clarity on FX, but with the new episodes I often can't adjust the antenna enough to eliminate double images.
posted by bingo at 10:14 AM on December 15, 2001

Recall that DirecTV recently launched a new satellite. Quote: The spacecraft will enable DIRECTV to add more than 300 local channels to its existing local channel programming in 41 markets and meet the federal "must carry" requirement of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act by its effective date of Jan. 1, 2002.
posted by rmannion at 11:17 AM on December 15, 2001

The DirecTV website is currently reflecting the new channel line-ups (for the Atlanta market, at least).
posted by chrish at 11:25 AM on December 15, 2001

I'm still at a loss as to why anyone would pay for local programming ($5.95 for our area). I have a second-hand antenna on my roof that I dug out of my grandmother's storage shed and it works just fine for local programming.

Do any of you really have that hard a time getting local stations? Or is it just the convenience factor?

Not trolling or anything, that's a serious question.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:30 AM on December 15, 2001

And actually, they're complying with the "Must-Carry" law by December 27. In Los Angeles, that's 21 locals... including UPN! What a fantastic Xmas present... every channel on DirecTiVo, with no need for cable or even antennae anymore. Looks like this only benefits the bigger cities though... cities that had no locals will continue to have no locals.
posted by Fofer at 11:38 AM on December 15, 2001

mr_crash_davis, the quality of the DTV signal far surpasses anything you're getting over rabbit ears. The convenience is nice too. Also, as a proud member of the TiVo religion, I can safely say that TV just isn't TV without DirecTiVo.
posted by Fofer at 11:40 AM on December 15, 2001


I have DirecTV but no Tivo as of yet. If I want to record more than one show in a single night, I can either record antenna shows or satellite shows, but there is no way (at least not without opening something and messing with wires) to program the DTV receiver to turn on and off, or for the TV to stop using it and start using antenna. And forget surfing satellite channels during commercials if you're watching antenna. And when you want to watch something on either satellite or antenna, immediately after watching something else on the other, and you have to rush to turn off the antenna, turn your vcr back to the satellite channel, etc. it's just a pain. Of course, people 20 years ago never had it so good, but it's all relative, and at least all they had to do was turn a single dial.
posted by bingo at 12:03 PM on December 15, 2001

bingo: Here's a solution for the recording issue- buy a cheap $50 VCR for the rabbit ear signal. Over the course of a year, that's less per month than a $4.99 type of charge for the local channels. :)

I think I disagree with this decision; I'm no fan of corporate or media hegemony at all, or of the big 4 getting to muscle UPN or PBS out of the satellite picture as it currently stands. However, I am also not a fan of judicial ignorance of technical issues. Demanding they carry all local stations is a technical challenge that the court seemed to not care about, despite the fact that rabbit ears- or just plain cable- are still very much available (I also can't tell from the link if by local public stations they even mean UHF or PBS). Unlike cable companies in a time when they had/ have monopoly presence in an area, satellite is a choice- or rather is the choice you can make besides cable and broadcast. To me, making DishNetwork and DirectTV carry local broadcast channels is like forcing Linux vendors start bundling IE6. :) Those who chose satellite (over cable in most areas) knew what they were doing when they did so- let the market forces dictate when and which local affiliates D & D decide they need to carry to keep/increase subscribers.

Sure, I'm glad that I get the local ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX affiliates so I don't have to use the rabbit ears to watch "The Tick", but I'd be just as happy if they made 4 sets of generic "satellite" affiliates (one set for each time zone) to show a mishmash of the network prime-time programming and selected regional fare, since that's all I want from the Big 4 (and even better, to watch the late night stuff early by tuning into the east coast signals!). On the whole, I prefer the a la carte of DishNetwork's national and various regional options (such as FoxSports come baseball season), and vastly prefer the cable news channels- including FreeSpeechTV- over the crappy local news channels and their daytime syndicated nonsense. Other than the occasional primetime nugget, I pretty much never use the local channels anyway.
posted by hincandenza at 12:37 PM on December 15, 2001

Why not opt for something like Time Warner's DTV? All the channels you need and more via cable. At $99.95/month, you get all DTV channels (roughly the same line up as DirectTV's) plus 4 multichannel premiums and RoadRunner.
posted by riffola at 12:56 PM on December 15, 2001

Well, some of us don't really like to watch tv that much, the basic 50 channels from Dish plus the local channels is all I really need. And yes, I live about 100 miles from the Boston market in a rural area which means antenna reception is zero.

My satellite bill works out to be around 25 bucks a month.
posted by jeremias at 1:42 PM on December 15, 2001

I tried to not get cable in Cleveland, but was told by the cable company that the area had something like a "cloud" over it so that you COULDN'T get reception without cable hook-up. I went from $6.00 basic cable crap to $50 digital cable crap. I still get double imaging from NBC. I wish I was rich so I could get every station in the whole world. I'm obsessed with tv. (especially the dumb dating shows)
posted by sadie01221975 at 3:50 PM on December 15, 2001

I've noticed the MPEG artifacts from higher compression already. Last night's episode of Dark Angel, for instance, was rife with them; there were many times when a change of shot left a ghostly "afterimage" of the previous shot because the interframe compression simply couldn't cope well with that much difference between frames. In half a second or so you'd see a color shift as a new full frame was sent down. If they don't find some way to fix this, I'll have to cancel my DirecTV service. It would pain me mightily to sell my DirecTiVo, but frankly I can only take so much suckage in my television pictures.
posted by kindall at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2001

Here's a solution for the recording issue- buy a cheap $50 VCR for the rabbit ear signal. Over the course of a year, that's less per month than a $4.99 type of charge for the local channels. :)

Yeah, a savings of about $10 per year, plus worse reception. That's okay.

I actually cannot get cable in my area. I live in a very old building in a poor neighborhood, and as far as I know no one around here has cable. I called a cable company once and they said that even if they decided to lay the cable now, it could be years before I could use it. So if I want to watch anything other than local channels, satellite is my only option.

Not only that, but due to my poor rabbit-ear reception, viewing local channels was my main motivation to get DirecTV to begin with, and the main thing I wanted to watch on the local channels was Buffy, and then it moved to UPN! I was not a happy camper.
posted by bingo at 4:13 PM on December 15, 2001

let the market forces dictate

I just wish the local affiliates would agree to this. DirecTV has to carry all this redundant programming because the local stations are terrified of giving you a choice of ways to receive your favorite network shows.

DirecTV will not carry any locals within my state because none of our major markets are big enough on a national scale. I am willing to pay extra to get all the network programming on my DirecTivo, but no one can take my money. Why? Because local affiliates have an exclusive monopoly on the delivery of network programming in their respective communities.

The increasing irrevevance is becoming extra-painfully clear as the networks begin rolling out high-def programming, but many local affiliates are unwilling to take the necessary steps to pass along the signal.

DBS is the perfect match of high-bandwidth delivery system and high-end consumers to deliver this new format nationally, but our local feudal media lords won't allow it.
posted by Dirjy at 5:43 PM on December 15, 2001

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