Shut Down Seeks Solution
As an estimated 700,000 satellite customers - and
possibly as many as 1 million - lost Fox and CBS signals Sunday, there were more calls for
a Congressional fix on the delivery of distant network feeds. At last report, there
were no last-minute legal maneuverings over the Miami court's Feb. 28 shut-off date. This
week, however, talk could heat up regarding a Congressionally approved moratorium that
will allow delivery of distant network feeds.
"Now, consumers have only one line of defense between themselves and the broadcast
monopoly - and that is Congress," said Bob Phillips, CEO of the National Rural
Telecommunications Cooperative. "NRTC will mount a consumer campaign in the coming
weeks to urge Congress to pass emergency legislation on behalf of these consumers.
As network TV signals go dark in rural homes without cause, viewers must make their
voices heard in Washington."
What You Can Do
If Your Network TV Stations Get Turned Off?
Dish owners who lose their satellite-delivered network TV stations currently have two
options for continued reception of network TV programming:
1: Request waivers from your local TV stations for continued satellite reception of
distant network TV signals. To get a waiver, a request must be filed with each local TV
station (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC) in your area. There are several resources to help dish owners
get waivers. Dish owners who have access to the Internet can go to www.tvaccessnow.com
and click on "Request a waiver", www.sbca.com and click on "Save Our
Signals", www.decisionmark.com and click on "SHVA
Solution Central" and www.primetime24.com and click on "Satellite TV
subscriber alert". Also, check out www.getawaiver.com and
www.iwantmyfreetv.com. Or, write to the following addresses for more information:
PrimeTime 24, 153 East 53rd St., 59th Floor, New York, NY 10022.
SBCA, 225 Reinekers Ln.,
Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314. NRTC, 2201 Cooperative Way, Suite 400, Herndon, VA 20171.
If and when you get that letter fax it in to your programming
provider and your programming will be restored. If your are an Orbit Communications C-Band
(Large Dish) programming customer fax it to 978-440-9662.
2: Try using a new, sophisticated
antenna to receive local TV stations. Off-air antenna technology has
advanced considerably over the last 10 years. Check with our Local TV
Channel Section, especially on the new off-air antenna maps from the Consumer
Electronics Manufacturer's Association (CEMA). Maps for all 212 TV markets across the
country are expected to be available next month-sooner in many areas.
History of the
On March 11, 1997, CBS and Fox brought legal action against PrimeTime 24 in a Federal
court in Miami. On June 10, 1998, the court ruled in favor of the broadcasters. The
broadcasters claimed that PrimeTime 24 violated Federal law by providing distant network
TV stations via satellite to dish owners who live in a local TV station's "grade
B" signal contour. Broadcasters maintain that satellite reception of distant network
TV stations in areas that supposedly can receive signals from local TV stations erodes a
local TV station's viewership and, therefore ratings, which are used to determine
advertising fees. The court's ruling requires satellite TV providers to shut off PrimeTime
24's satellite-delivered distant network TV stations, particularly CBS and Fox, that are
being transmitted to dish owners who do not qualify (live within their local TV station's
grade B signal contour). Many dish owners who are in their local TV station's grade B area
cannot receive adequate signals from their local TV stations with an off-air antenna.
The original court decision handed down by Miami Federal court judge Lenore Nesbitt
mandated that the satellite delivery of distant network TV signals to ineligible
subscribers had to be terminated on or before October 9, 1998. That ruling was delayed
until February 28, 1999 in order to give the satellite industry, broadcasters and the
government time to find a more reasonable solution. This first court ruling only impacts
dish owners who ordered PrimeTime 24 stations between March 11, 1997, the day the
broadcasters filed the lawsuit in Miami, and June 10, 1998, the day the court issued its
original decision. On December 30, 1998, Federal court Judge Lenore Nesbitt, who is
presiding over the case, issued a permanent injunction against PrimeTime 24. The permanent
injunction mandates that all ineligible subscribers who ordered PrimeTime 24 before March
11, 1997, must be turned off on or before April 30, 1999.
Instead of using the grade B signal contour as the standard of determining which dish
owners do not qualify for satellite-delivered distant network TV stations, the SBCA and
the NRTC have recommended using the Terrain Integrated Rough Earth Model (TIREM) which
takes into account features of the local terrain. TIREM, which was developed by the
National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA), incorporates data from
the U.S. Geological Survey. TIREM can provide a more accurate method of determining
reception of local TV stations via an off-air antenna. The FCC has recommended a method of
determining which dish owners do not qualify for satellite-delivered network TV stations
that takes into account terrain.