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Television Broadcast Stations on Satellite

1.  Can I receive television broadcast stations on my satellite system?

Yes.  There are different ways subscribers can get television broadcast channels and your ability to receive a particular station primarily depends on several factors that are governed by legislation enacted by Congress and implemented by the Federal Communications Commission. Satellite companies may provide local broadcast TV signals to subscribers who reside in the local TV station’s market, commonly referred to as "local-into-local" service.  In general, satellite companies may provide you with network broadcast stations that are not in your local market only under two circumstances:  1) the satellite carrier does not offer “local-into-local” service in your market and you are not “served” over-the-air by a local station affiliated with that network; or 2) the satellite carrier does offer “local-into-local,” you subscribe to the package, and the out-of-market station is considered “significantly viewed.”

2.  How can I get my local television broadcast stations if I am a satellite subscriber?

“Local” TV broadcast stations are stations that broadcast in your local area.  You have two options for receiving them as a satellite subscriber:

a)  Subscribe to the local television stations through your satellite company.

  • As of December 2010, most satellite television subscribers may subscribe to local broadcast television signals delivered by satellite (“local-into-local” service).  DISH Network provides local-into-local service in all 210 television markets and DIRECTV provides such service in over 150 markets. 
  • Satellite carriers may charge for this service.
  • A satellite company has the option of providing local-into-local service, but is not required to do so.
  • “Local-into-local” means the stations located within a particular “designated market area” (DMA) are retransmitted by satellite to subscribers in that same DMA.  Your county is included in a particular DMA and that means the satellite company may offer you the stations located in your DMA as part of your local-into-local service. 
  • DMAs are determined by Nielsen Media Research and are based primarily on its measurement of local viewing patterns.  Neither the FCC nor the satellite company plays any part in determining which counties are included in particular DMAs.
  • Generally, a satellite company that elects to provide local-into-local service is required to provide subscribers with all the local broadcast TV signals that are assigned to that DMA, as long as they ask to be carried on the satellite system and are otherwise eligible.  However, a satellite company is not required to carry more than one local station within the DMA that is affiliated with a particular TV network in the same state.
  • You can ask your satellite company  if local-into-local service is available for you.

b)  Receive local TV stations for free over-the-air with an antenna.

  • You can install a TV broadcast antenna in conjunction with your satellite antenna so that you can receive your local broadcast TV stations over-the-air.
  • This option is available whether or not your satellite service carries local broadcast stations in your area but does depend on whether your over-the-air antenna can receive broadcast stations at your geographic location.
  • Television stations received over-the-air using an indoor or outdoor TV antenna are not part of the satellite service and there is no charge for receiving them. 

3.  Can I get television broadcast stations from outside of my television market (also known as “distant stations”) from my satellite company?

A "distant station" is one that originates outside of a satellite subscriber’s local television market, which is the DMA.  Satellite companies are permitted to offer distant stations only to subscribers who meet certain eligibility requirements (described below). 

There are five circumstances in which satellite subscribers are permitted to receive a distant TV station via satellite:

(a)  “Significantly viewed.”  If you receive local-into-local service you may be eligible, under certain circumstances, to receive individual stations from markets outside your DMA if they are deemed “significantly viewed” in your community.  These are most likely stations broadcasting nearby but not considered in the same DMA where you live.

  • It is up to the satellite carrier whether or not to offer significantly viewed stations and you must be a local-into-local service subscriber to be eligible to receive these stations.
  • The determination of whether or not a station is significantly viewed in a community depends on several statutory factors.  The FCC posts a list of the stations that are eligible for carriage as significantly viewed signals and the communities in which they are significantly viewed at www.fcc.gov/mb.  Your satellite carrier can tell you whether a station is on the significantly viewed list and if it intends to offer the station.

(b)  “Unserved” household.  You may be eligible to receive distant stations if your satellite carrier does not offer local-into-local service in your market and if you are “unserved” by local stations over-the-air.  The satellite company determines whether to provide distant stations to eligible subscribers and which distant stations will be offered.  Satellite companies also may charge an additional fee for these distant stations. 

The term "unserved " means:  (a) you cannot receive, through the use of an antenna, an over-the-air signal of required intensity from a local network affiliate; or the local network affiliate grants you a waiver to permit you to get the distant station.  As an unserved household, you would be eligible to receive no more than two distant network affiliated stations per day for each TV network.  For example, if the household is "unserved," the household could receive no more than two ABC stations, no more than two NBC stations, etc.  The signal intensity standard is an FCC-defined measurement of the strength of a television station’s signal received at a specific location.  If you qualify to subscribe to distant stations, you may only receive stations located in your same time zone or in a later time zone, not in an earlier time zone.  In other words, you cannot receive programming aired at an earlier time than it would be aired by local stations in your time zone.

(c)  RV or truck.  If your satellite dish antenna is permanently attached to a recreational vehicle or a commercial truck, you may be eligible to receive distant stations.  The "recreational vehicle" must meet the definition contained in regulations issued by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (24 CFR §32828).  The "commercial truck" must meet the definition contained in regulations issued by the Department of Transportation (49 CFR §383.5).  The owner of the recreational vehicle or the commercial truck must produce documentation that the vehicle meets the definitional criteria and include a signed declaration that the satellite dish is permanently attached to the vehicle or to the truck.  The law specifies that the terms "recreational vehicle" and "commercial truck" do not include any fixed dwelling, whether a mobile home or otherwise.

(d)  C-band.  Generally, C-band service uses large satellite dish antennas (e.g., seven feet in diameter).  People who subscribe to C-band service may continue to receive distant network television signals if these signals were being received on October 31, 1999 or if the signals were terminated before October 31, 1999;

(e)  Special provisions.  In Mississippi, New Hampshire, and Vermont, additional television stations outside your DMA may be offered by your satellite carrier.  If you are in these states, ask your satellite carrier if these distant stations are available to you.

4.  How do I know if my household is "unserved" with respect to over-the-air television broadcast stations?

All full power television broadcast stations are now transmitting their signals in digital format.  The FCC has created a computer model for satellite companies and television stations to use to predict whether a household is served or unserved with respect to digital signals.  The satellite company, distributor, or retailer from whom you obtained your satellite system and programming should be able to tell you whether the model predicts that you are "served" or "unserved."  The FCC does not provide these predictions.

If your household is predicted “served,” you are not eligible for distant stations unless the station predicted to serve you grants you a waiver.  You may ask your satellite company to request a waiver from the television station on your behalf.  The station has 30 days from the date that it receives the waiver request to either grant or deny the request.  If the station does not respond within 30 days, the waiver is considered granted and the satellite company may provide the distant signal.  However, the satellite company is not required to provide distant signals and may decline to do so or may choose to wait longer than 30 days before doing so.

If the station denies the waiver, you may request to have a signal strength test performed at your household to determine whether the TV station’s signal meets the signal intensity standard for digital signals adopted by the FCC.  Although the satellite carrier is not required to act on your request, if the carrier does accept it, the test should be performed within 30 days after the date that you submit your request.  The test must be performed by an independent tester selected by the satellite carrier and the TV station.  If the satellite carrier requests the test and the station’s signal exceeds the signal intensity standard, the satellite carrier pays for the test.  If the station’s signal is determined not to exceed the signal intensity standard, the station pays for the test.  If the satellite carrier does not act on your request for a signal strength test and you reside in a DMA where the satellite carrier does not provide local-into-local service, you may arrange for the test yourself.  You will have to pay for the test no matter what it shows and the price may include the cost for the tester to come to your house.  The test must still be conducted by an independent tester that both the network station and the satellite carrier have approved.  In the event that a satellite company and the TV station are unable to agree on someone to conduct the test, the FCC has designated the American Radio Relay League ("ARRL") as the independent and neutral entity to approve the proposed tester.

5.  If I am currently receiving distant stations via satellite, can I continue to do so?

Yes.  If you were receiving distant stations as of February 27, 2010 and your satellite company is not offering local-into-local service in your market, you may continue to receive distant stations.  However, if in the future your satellite company begins local-into-local service in your market, you will have to subscribe to local service in order to continue to receive distant stations.

If you were receiving distant stations on or before February 26, 2010, and your satellite company is offering local-into-local service, you can continue to receive the distant stations and you can choose whether to receive the local stations in addition to the distant stations, but you do not have to subscribe to local-into-local service.

A small group of subscribers who subscribed to distant stations before 1999 must choose between continuing to receive distant stations or receiving local-into-local service when local service is offered.  Your satellite carrier should be able to tell you if you are in this category of subscriber.  

6.  Do sports blackout rules apply to satellite carriers?

Yes.  Sports blackouts can apply to satellite carriage of network television stations.  This means that  satellite carriers are required to delete sports events in specific areas under certain circumstances.  For more information about these rules, consult the Report and Order, FCC 00-388, adopted October 27, 2000.  You may obtain a copy of this document using the link above or below or by calling the FCC toll free at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322).

7.  Will I need additional equipment to receive high definition signals?

You may need a new satellite dish, an additional (second) satellite dish and/or a new receiver box to receive HD signals.  Satellite carriers may require a second satellite dish antenna for high definition signals as long as all the local HD signals are received on one dish.  If you currently have two dishes, your satellite carrier may notify you that you will need to change equipment.  If you have questions about the satellite equipment you need to receive local or distant, or high definition stations, ask your satellite carrier.

8.  Whom should I contact for additional information?

If you have questions about the availability of local-into-local service in your specific area, your eligibility to receive distant TV stations, the procedure for obtaining a waiver, or other specific information about your satellite service, you should contact your satellite company or distributor.

If you have questions about this Information Sheet you may contact the FCC Call Center, toll free, at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

List of Related Documents

  1. Media Bureau Announces Comment Deadlines for Report on In-State Broadcast Programming. Comments Due: 1/24/11. Reply Comments Due: 2/22/11. (12/10/10)
    Public Notice: Word | Acrobat
  2. FCC Takes Four Actions to Implement Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). (11/23/10)
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    Significantly Viewed Report and Order: Word | Acrobat
    Signal Prediction R&O & FNPRM: Word | Acrobat
    Measurement Report and Order: Word | Acrobat
    In-State Broadcasting Public Notice: Word | Acrobat
  3. Media Bureau Acts on Requests to Extend Digital Testing Waivers Pursuant to the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004.  (10/31/2006)
    Order: Word | Acrobat
    Attachment: Excel | Acrobat
  4. Waiver of Digital Testing Pursuant to the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004. (5/1/2006)
    Order: Word | Acrobat
    Appendix A: Excel | Acrobat
    Appendix B: Excel | Acrobat
    Appendix C: Excel | Acrobat
  5. Measurement Standards for Digital Television Signals Pursuant to the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004. (4/28/2006).
    NPRM: Word | Acrobat
  6. TV Station Requests for Waiver of Digital Testing Pursuant to the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 to be Filed by November 30, 2005 or February 15, 2007. (11/17/2005)
    Public Notice: Word | Acrobat
  7. FCC Takes Further Steps to Implement SHVERA. (11/3/2005)
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    Report & Order: Word | Acrobat
    Appendix C - Significantly Viewed List as of 11/2/05: Word | Acrobat
  8. FCC Report to Congress on Retransmission Consent and Exclusivity Rules Pursuant to Section 208 of SHVERA. (9/9/2005)
    Report To Congress: Word | Acrobat
  9. FCC Implements Satellite Carriage of HDTV and Multicast Programming in Alaska and Hawaii. (8/23/2005)
    News Release: Word |  Acrobat
    Order: Word | Acrobat
  10. FCC Extends Good Faith Bargaining Obligations to Cable and Satellite Providers. (6/7/2005)
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    Order: Word | Acrobat
  11. SHVERA NOI Concerning Technical Standards for Determining Eligibility For Satellite-Delivered Distant Digital Signals. (5/3/2005):
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    NOI: Word | Acrobat
  12. Commission Implements Implementation of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 ("SHVERA"), Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, Noncontiguous States. (5/2/2005)
    NPRM: Word | Acrobat
  13. Commission Implements the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004 ("SHVERA"), Procedural Rules. (3/30/05)
    Order: Word | Acrobat
  14. Commission Implements Section 207 of the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act of 2004, Reciprocal Bargaining Obligations. (3/7/2005)
    NPRM: Word | Acrobat
  15. Commission Takes Steps Toward Implementation of SHVERA (Significantly Viewed NPRM). (2/7/2005)
    News Release: Word | Acrobat
    NPRM: Word | Acrobat
  16. Commission Seeks Comment for Inquiry Required by the Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act on Rules Affecting Competition in the Television Marketplace. (1/25/2005)
    Public Notice: Word | Acrobat | Text
  17. Satellite Home Viewer Extension and Reauthorization Act ("SHVERA"), Pub. L. No. 108-447,  118 Stat 2809 (2004) (enacted on December 8, 2004, as Title IX of the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005) Word
  18. Implementation of the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999:  Broadcast Signal Carriage Issues, CS Docket No. 00-96. (9/5/2001)
    Order on Reconsideration: Word | Acrobat | Text
  19. Commission Implements Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act Provisions Concerning Broadcast Signal Carriage Issues and Retransmission Consent Issues for Satellite Carriers. (11/29/00)
    Order: Word | Text
  20. Technical Standards for Determining Eligibility For Satellite-Delivered Network Signals Pursuant To the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act. (11/29/00)
    Report: Word | Text
  21. Commission Implements Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act Sports Blackout and Program Exclusivity Rule Provisions for Satellite Carriers. (10/27/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    Order: Word | Text
  22. FCC Seeks Comment on Rules for Satellite Carriage of Broadcast Signals. (6/8/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    NPRM: Word | Text
  23. FCC Implements Three More SHVIA Requirements. (5/26/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    Order, FCC 00-185: Word | Text
    Notice of Inquiry, FCC 00-184: Word | Text
  24. FCC Adopts Rules for Retransmission Consent Nine Months Ahead of Deadline. (3/16/00)
    News Release: HTML | Text
    Order: Word | Acrobat | Text
  25. Order Regarding Enforcement Procedures for Retransmission Consent Complaints Pursuant to SHVIA. (1/27/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    Order: Word | Text
  26. Notice of Proposed Rule Making on Computer Model Predicting Signal Intensity to Determine Unserved Households. (1/20/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    NPRM: Word | Text
  27. Notice of Proposed Rule Making for Network Nonduplication, Syndicated Program Exclusivity and Sports Blackout Rules to be Applied to Satellite Carriers. (1/07/00)
    News Release: Word | Text
    NPRM: Word | Text
  28. Notice of Proposed Rule Making on Retransmission Consent Negotiations. (12/22/99)
    News Release: Word | Text
    NPRM: Word | Text
  29. Order on Reconsideration. (10/7/99)
    News Release: Word | Text
    Order: WordPerfect | Text
  30. Rulemaking. (2/1/99)
    New Release & Statements: HTML
    R&O: WordPerfect | Text

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