Local News

Viewers May Soon Receive Local TV on Satellite

Posted November 8, 1999

— Satellite TV viewers may soon be able to take down their antennas to watch local news. A compromise bill that allows satellite companies to offer local programming is making its way through Congress.

If the bill is approved, as most observers think it will be, some satellite users could begin getting local signals very soon.

Satellite owners have been kicked off distant network stations for months. Now, it appears dishes, large and small, will be allowed to pick up local news and programming.

Satellite owners can pick up hundreds of channels but not their local news, weather and other programs unless they use an antenna or cable.

If the satellite bill is approved, television signals from space will level the playing field.

"The consumer will have more choices, and to that extent, this is certainly a pro-consumer bill," said Wade Hargrove, a communications lawyer.

DirectTVandEchoStarsay they will begin serving big television markets quickly. It is not known when Raleigh and Charlotte will get service which becomes a matter of economics for satellite services.

"The cost relative to the subscription revenues are very questionable from an economic situation when you get outside the top 50 markets of the country or the top 30 markets," said Hargrove.

The bill might spur competition among providers for smaller markets.

"A $1.25 billion program, loan program, to provide incentives for new satellite companies to come into areas and provide service," saidSen. John Edwards.

Consumers pushed lawmakers, satellite operators and broadcasters to provide local signals, and it appears they will win.

Some areas of the country could begin receiving local stations as soon as Christmas. We will know more about which markets and whether Raleigh is among them in a few days.

That all depends on passage of the bill.

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