1. Can I receive television broadcast stations on my satellite system?
Yes. There are different ways satellite subscribers can get television broadcast channels. Your ability to receive a particular station depends on several factors that are governed by legislation enacted by Congress and implemented by the Federal Communications Commission. Satellite companies can 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 can provide you with network broadcast stations that are not in your local market only under three 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; 2) the satellite carrier does offer “local-into-local,” you subscribe to the package, and the out-of-market station is considered “significantly viewed;” or 3) the satellite carrier does offer “local-into-local,” you subscribe to the package, and the FCC adds the out-of-market station to your local market through the “market modification” process established by recent legislation.
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.
- Most satellite television subscribers can get local broadcast television signals delivered by satellite (“local-into-local” service). As of December 2015, DISH Network provides local-into-local service in all 210 television markets and DIRECTV offers this service in 198 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 can offer you the stations located in the same DMA as your county as part of your local-into-local service.
- DMAs are determined by the Nielsen Company 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 chooses to offer 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 (called the “carry-one, carry-all” rule). 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 to receive 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 the FCC add a station to my local market?
Yes. The FCC can add stations to your local TV market through the FCC’s recently established “market modification” process if the station can show that it provides local service to your community and your satellite TV company has the technical ability to offer the station to your community.
- This process requires the station, your satellite TV company, or your county government to file a request with the FCC. Although subscribers cannot ask the FCC directly for market changes, you can contact one or more of these parties to request they file the satellite market modification petition.
- The FCC determines whether to grant a market modification based on five statutory factors , which allow petitioners to demonstrate they provide local service to the community. The community may be considered to be part of more than one television market if it furthers the public interest.
- If you do not receive stations from your home state (“in-state” stations), ask an in-state station, your satellite TV company or your county government, if this process can be used to add an in-state station to your local-into-local service.
- For more information, including the criteria that the FCC considers in evaluating a request from the station, your satellite TV company, or your county government, see the FCC’s guide concerning the STELAR [STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014] market modification process.
4. I am not receiving “in-state” broadcast TV stations from my local satellite TV service. Can the market modification process be used to help address this problem?
Yes. If you do not receive your home state’s (“in-state”) stations, it may be possible under certain circumstances for an in-state station, your satellite TV company, or your county government to use the market modification process (discussed above) to add an “in-state” station to your local TV market.
- Although consumers cannot petition the FCC directly for market changes, you can contact the in-state station you want to receive, your satellite TV company, and/or your county government and request they file a satellite market modification petition with the FCC.
- The STELAR recognizes that some satellite subscribers are not able to access their home state’s news, politics, sports, emergency information and other TV programming. This happens because of the way TV stations are defined as “local” for purposes of satellite carriage. In some cases, it means you may be included in a local TV market (defined by a DMA) that is served exclusively, or almost exclusively, by TV stations coming from a neighboring state.
5. 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 them.
- 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 you cannot receive, through the use of an antenna, an over-the-air signal of required intensity from a local network affiliate. If the local network affiliate grants you a waiver in order for you to get the distant station, then you are also considered “unserved.” 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 telecast 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). If you subscribe to C-band service, you can continue to receive distant network television signals if the 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 you can get these distant stations.
6. 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 required to transmit 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 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 can ask your satellite company to request a waiver from the television station on your behalf. The station has 30 days from the date it receives the request to either grant or deny it. If the station does not respond within 30 days, the waiver is considered granted and the satellite company can 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 can request a signal strength test be performed at your home to determine whether the TV station’s signal meets the FCC’s signal intensity standard for digital signals. 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 it was submitted. 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 does not exceed the signal intensity standard, the station pays for the test. If the satellite carrier does not act on your request and you reside in a DMA where the carrier does not offer local-into-local service, you can 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 home. The test must still be conducted by an independent tester that both the network station and the satellite carrier have approved. If 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.
7. 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 can still 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 received 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 if you are in this category of subscriber.
8. 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, distant, or high definition stations, ask your satellite carrier.
9. 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 TV company or distributor.
If you have questions about this Information Sheet, please contact the FCC Call Center, toll free, at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).