Clearing Up Confusing Signals about Satellite Dishes, Service
Posted February 2, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
MORRISVILLE — Satellite dishes are hot sellers, but some customers say salespeople aren't playing by the rules. Consumers are being told they can get local news programming as long as television stations sign a waiver.
That is not true.
Under a federal law passed in 1988, television stations own the copyrights to the network programming in their market.
That means if you can get WRAL-TV at your home with an antenna, other companies don't have the right to put a CBS station from another city on your satellite service.
But a lot of consumers say they aren't being told this up front.
"You look at the TV Guide and say 'Hey, there's a great show coming on.' If you can't get it, it is frustrating," says satellite owner Rod Barlow.
Barlow has a satellite dish which carries no major networks. In order to watch local network television, he uses rabbit ears to get a signal.
"I love [Channel] 5 because they have great news and it's clearer than most," says Barlow.
But Barlow didn't know when he bought his satellite dish that he wouldn't be able to get major networks or local television.
"If I knew this I would have taken that dish down," says Barlow. "I wouldn't have bought it."
WRAL-TV has received over 1,000 letters from satellite dish owners asking for a waiver so that they can receive CBS programming on their satellite from another city.
Dish owners say they are told by the satellite companies to ask for the waivers. But by law, waivers will only be granted to people who can't receive a local signal with an antenna.
"Satellite carriers have not bought the copyrights for those programs," says Wade Hargrove, of the N.C. Association of Broadcasters. "Therefore they do not have the right to use someone else's programs and resell them."
But not all satellite companies are advocating that their clients ask television stations for the waivers.
The owners of Digital Satellite Experts tell their clients to get an antenna if they want network programming, because the waivers are rarely granted.
"The people that we've heard, it has been unsuccessful, time-consuming, it hasn't seemed to be worth their while," says Brian Regoli of Digital Satellite Experts.
About four million people across the country do have satellite service. But a lot of those people supplement the service with rabbit ears or an antenna so they can receive local stations and the major networks.
The ideal situation that many satellite customers are hoping for is that someday soon the services will provide local channels.