[opendtv] Re: Lawmakers Establish 2009 Deadline for Analog TV Phaseout

  • From: Craig Birkmaier <craig@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: opendtv@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 25 Dec 2005 10:11:29 -0500

At 4:18 PM -0500 12/24/05, Albert Manfredi wrote:
>Not at all. This has been true because US TV markets are
>huge, and obviously one wants to receive stations with
>the simplest possible antenna system, and because adjacent
>markets often provide programs that the local market
>stations don't provide. And that last can be due to any
>number of reasons, including (but not limited to) the case
>of local games being blacked out on local stations.

Bert raises a number of interesting issues here.

#1 - US TV markets are huge

This is a highly misleading statement.

For example, We have markets like Salt Lake City, that cover huge 
expanses using both the primary transmitters and hundreds - if not 
thousands - of translators. And we have tiny markets like Washington 
DC and Providence R.I., that are surrounded by larger markets with 
largely duplicated programming.

Homes located in rural areas generally require sophisticated antenna, 
typically mounted on tall masts or towers to receive distant 
broadcasts. In many cases rotors are also used as these rural areas 
may be located between two or more markets. For example, several 
decades ago I installed an antenna system in New Site, Alabama, which 
is located about 35 miles north or Auburn. With the rotor it was/is 
possible to tune to stations from Columbus, Ga, Montgomery AL, and 
Birmingham AL. The quality of reception is poor for all of these 
stations, which helps to explain why my in-laws added DirecTV when it 
became available. They never did buy the local station package from 
DirecTV, choosing instead to leave the antenna in a fixed position to 
receive the local broadcasts from Mongomery. It is important to note 
that none of the available stations provide local news or ads for the 
area in which my in-laws lived.

#2 - adjacent markets often provide programs that the local market 
stations don't provide

Other than locally produced programming such as news, this is largely 
untrue. Most of the content delivered by broadcasters is drawn from 
the major networks and from syndicators. Sundicated programming is 
sold on a "market exclusive basis," so it is NOT duplicated within a 
market, but may be duplicated in adjacent markets. large markets may 
have more independent stations, which may offer additional 
programming variety, but a comparison of the programming available in 
ANY market to any other will show that more than 90% of all 
programming is duplicated in adjacent markets. What does vary is the 
time that many of these shows are broadcast. Thus there is an element 
of variety from adjacent markets based on differences in programming 
scheduling, but the actual availability of differentiated programming 
from adjacent markets is quite small. With a PVR, these differences 
become almost meaningless.

#3 - the case of local games being blacked out on local stations

This is a classic example of the market orientation of the U.S. 
broadcast service.  It is one of the most BLATANT examples of 
techno-political gerrymandering in support of MULTIPLE government 
supported monopolies. As I said in the previous message, the ability 
to receive distant market signals IS NOT A FEATURE, IT IS A PROBLEM. 
The NFL DOES NOT want you to receive a distant signal when a game is 
blacked out in the "local market." In many cases the blackouts may 
extend across several markets. This may include areas ,such as where 
Bert lives, where it is EASY to receive both Washington and Baltimore 
stations. And it may include areas such as Gainesville, where we are 
forced to view certain games because we are technically inside the 
market for that franchise. For example, I am a Miami Dolphins fan, 
however, if they have a game at the same time as the Jacksonville 
Jaguars, the Jaguar game takes precedence, even if it is being 
blacked out.

Bert obviously does not like the market orientation of the U.S. 
broadcast system. he does like the "perception" that he gets more 
programming choice, despite the fact that this is LARGELY untrue.

The fact remains that the U.S. system IS market based, and 
market-into-market intrusions are an undesirable artifact, at least 
from the point-of-view of the broadcasters and their program 

The reality is that we can deliver a true market based broadcast 
system that actually works, without any significant market into 
market interference.  What is more important, by building such a 
system we could use the spectrum so much more efficiently that EVERY 
MARKET could offer 3-4 times the number of channels, greatly 
increasing programming choice. The problem is that this would further 
erode the declining audiences of local broadcasters.

>I would certainly agree that DBS and cable operators would
>prefer for OTA reception to not work at all, and that local
>affiliates would probably prefer that only their one station
>be receivable. But the consumer has a different set of
>interests, as absolutely any OTA user would tell you.

85% of consumers in the U.S. have chosen to get their TV programming 
from a multichannel supplier that is limited by regulation to the 
delivery of only the signals intended for the market where you live. 
In some cases differentiated programming may be offered from distant 
markets, but a local broadcasters can force the cable or DBS services 
to block out-of-market broadcasts of programming for which they have 
the local market rights.

People have chose to PAY for these services because of programming 
choice. Not the kind of choice that you get from distant broadcasts, 
but REAl, differentiated programming that is NOT AVAILABLE from ANY 

This whole market protection scheme is so pervasive that broadcasters 
do not want you to be able to access the content from your home 
market when you are away from that market. Bert might WANT to see a 
Washington DC newscast ( e.g via the Internet, or by downloading the 
program from his home server) if he is on the West Coast for 
business, but broadcasters are doing everything in their power to 
make certain that he will never get this option.

Clearly the interests of customers are not being protected. On the 
other hand, with 85% of consumers subscribing to a multichannel 
service, it is equally clear that that consumers like Bert are the 
exception, not the rule.

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