The Federal Communications Commission wants to redefine local television market boundaries for satellite TV carriage in order to give satellite subscribers access to in-state news and other programming that they currently are can’t receive over the bird.
The proposed rule, passed Thursday in a unanimous vote, would bring satellite local TV carriage rules in line with current carriage rules for cable.
“This notice brings common sense to our rules, thanks to new flexibility given to us by the Congress,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler “This NPRM will meet Congress’ September timeline, and then it will be up to the local broadcasters to grant retransmission consent and up to satellite carriers and their ability to provide in-state stations.”
Dish and DirectTV are now required to use Nielsen market definitions, known as DMAs , to determine which local TV outlets are provided to their subscribers. When DMAs straddle state lines, subscribers may not be in the same state as the local TV stations they get off their satellite.
“[TV households] that do not [have access to in-state TV stations] face a real uphill climb just to access vital information many of us take for granted, including state political and election coverage, public affairs programming, and weather and emergency alerts,” said FCC commissioner Michael O’Rielly, “Today the Commission makes a move toward finally getting a solution in place for more of these consumers.”
The FCC would modify market definitions at the request of a broadcaster or cable operator. Satellite carriers could be granted an exception if the resulting carriage is “not technically and economically feasible.”
The FCC initiated the rule making as required by STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014. The law requires the FCC to issue final rules on or before September 4, 2015.