I received a very interesting letter from the FCC........
Thank you for contacting the Federal Communications Commission.
The eligibility of a satellite TV subscriber to receive distant (NY/LA)
networks (whether analog or HD) is governed by a federal law and the law
does not grant the FCC to exercise discretion in this area.
In 1999, the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act (SHVIA) became law.
Among other things, the SHVIA authorized satellite TV companies to
provide local TV stations in areas where the company wished to do so.
The SHVIA also clarified that satellite TV subscribers were not eligible
to receive distant TV networks unless the local network affiliate did
not provide an adequate over-the-air signal to the subscriber's
location. In this regard, the SHVIA stated that a subscriber was
eligible to receive distant TV networks if the local network affiliates
did not provide a Grade B or better TV signal that the subscriber could
receive when using a conventional over-the-air roof antenna. (The
subscriber's ability to subscribe to cable TV service is not relevant).
In general, subscribers are required to obtain a waiver from the local
network affiliate prior to receiving a distant network. The waiver
indicates that the local station agrees that the subscriber cannot
receive at least Grade B local signal and authorizes the satellite
company to provide a distant network signal to that subscriber. The
SHVIA does not authorize the FCC to intervene if the local TV station
denies the waiver request.
Of particular interest to you, the SHVIA did not specifically address
whether subscribers were eligible to receive waivers for the sole
purpose of receiving a distant HD signal and did not authorize the FCC
to take any action on this issue. The U.S. Copyright Office, however,
expressed the opinion that the waiver process did not apply to distant
HD signals. (The U.S. Copyright Office is authorized to enforce certain
aspects of the SHVIA). Thus, federal law does not authorize the FCC to
require that satellite TV subscribers purchase local TV signals in order
to obtain distant analog or HD network signals.
A recent federal law, however, appears to address your HD concerns. On
December 8, 2004, the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and
Reauthorization Act of 2004 ("SHVERA") was enacted as part of the
Consolidated FY 2005 Appropriations Act (P.L. 108-447). The SHVERA
modified the SHVIA and made significant reforms regarding the ability of
satellite television subscribers to receive local and distant broadcast
network programming. Among other things, the SHVERA generally
authorizes satellite television carriers to provide distant digital
broadcast network signals to subscribers if certain conditions are
satisfied. For example, pursuant to the SHVERA, a subscriber generally
is eligible to receive the digital signal of a distant network station
if: (1) the subscriber is located outside of the predicted coverage
area of the analog signal of a local station affiliated with that
network; (2) the subscriber is "unserved", i.e., cannot receive, through
the use of a conventional, stationary, outdoor roof antenna, an
over-the-air network of at least Grade B intensity as defined by the
Commission; or (3) a signal test demonstrates that the subscriber cannot
receive a local digital signal that exceeds the signal intensity
standard as defined by the Commission. It should be noted, however,
that the test procedures for digital service established by the SHVERA
do not become effective until April 30, 2006 for local stations in the
top-100 television markets, and for local stations that are not within
the top-100 television markets, the test criteria will be effective on
July 15, 2007.
Based on the above, whether a satellite company offers local TV stations
in the area and whether a subscriber purchases the local channels is not
relevant to the subscriber's eligibility to receive distant HD
After much review of the SHVERA, Commission staff has opened a
proceeding and released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). For
information concerning this proceeding please visit this website:http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_publi...-256592A1.pdf.