NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Loss Of Programs Upsets Satellite Dish Owners

February 9, 1999

A number of owners of satellite dishes are scheduled to lose their broadcast network programs in the next few months. Protesting that television access is a right, they are flooding Congress with complaints.

The challenge started when CBS and News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting complained to a Miami, Fla., federal court that satellite carriers were illegally beaming their programs to viewers -- and the court ordered a halt.

  • Under the court's order, network programs will begin disappearing from satellite-fed screens on February 28, 1999, with the process scheduled to continue through April.
  • While cable companies must carry the signals of all local network stations, satellite-television concerns generally aren't permitted to transmit any network programs to subscribers.
  • The only exception is for a small number of subscribers in remote areas who can't get a clear picture from network stations via their rooftop antennas, and who haven't received network shows via cable within 90 days.
  • Broadcasters allege -- and two federal courts, including the one in Miami, agree -- that carriers and PrimeTime 24, the network program provider, have widely abused this exemption clause.

Lawyers for the broadcasters contend that of the 10 million households which have installed dishes, some four million get distant-network signals -- the majority of them illegally.

The broadcasters argue that the growing number of viewers who get distant network signals are eroding the audiences of their local affiliate stations -- and thus threatening their advertising revenues.

Source: Kathy Chen, "Satellite-TV Dispute With Networks Goes to Washington," Wall Street Journal, February 9, 1999.


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