[opendtv] Re: Fewer than 2 Million have OTA DTV in US

  • From: "John Willkie" <johnwillkie@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 24 Dec 2006 21:18:33 -0800

> >
> > So, MediaCom cable subscribers who can't get the signals over the air or
> > don't want to try, will have the option of satellite local-into-local or
> > distant stations.  It will be interesting to watch.
> >
> That will indeed be an interesting experiment to watch.  But I'm
> surprised that cable companies can deal with a distant affiliate of a
> network in competition with the local one.  I thought the local station
> would have an exclusive contract with the network for that area.  Is
> that changing, or not the case?

There is some curious interplay at work here.  In the mid-1970's, the FCC
adopted network non-duplication rules; unless you had permission from the
local affiliate (or the affiliate chose not to air a particular show), the
cable company couldn't air a network show from a distant market.  This was
back in the era of the "bad old" must-carry rules.   Similar -- but not
exact copies -- of rules were adopted for syndicated programming.

Subsequently, the Congress created the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, and
established rules and copyright fees for the cable carriage of out-of-market
stations.  IIRC, in the mid to late 1980's, the fee was something like 3.5
cents per subscriber per month for each distant signal, but had to be done
in a bundle of four, so 14 cents per subscriber per month for each pack of
four distant channels.

As a result of this 'exorbiant' charge, cable systems dropped distant
signals in favor of channels that would pay them for being added, and had
local advertising opportunities in the network feeds.

Then, the must-carry rules were cancelled by the Supremes, then replaced
with "must carry/retrans consent."

So, distant signals were unused at least in most major markets, for some

Whether or how the network non-duplication can be invoked in this situation
will also be interesting to watch.

John Willkie

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