FCC Approves Satellite Market Modification

In one of two votes under a Sept. 4 congressional deadline (the other the launch of retrans negotiation rules), the FCC has voted to allow satellite operators to modify their markets to carry TV stations of significant interest to their viewers.

The new rules mirror that for cable operators, who can already import significantly viewed stations that may have been gerrymandered out of local markets due to DMAs that cross state lines. The issue was a hot-button one with legislators with football fan constituents denied the games of their local football team, for example.

"In certain multistate Designated Market Areas (“DMAs”), satellite subscribers located in out-of-state counties within a DMA are sometimes unable to receive in-state broadcast television stations and therefore may lack access to in-state news, sports, public affairs, political information, and emergency information," the FCC said. "The STELAR Act addresses this so-called “orphan county” problem by allowing the Commission to modify, upon the request of a television station, satellite operator, or county government, a particular commercial television broadcast station’s local television market to add or delete communities to better reflect market realities."

The FCC will use a multi-factor test to decide whether to grant the modification.

The rules allow for exceptions where it is not technically feasible--satellite operators need precisely tuned spot beams to deliver local service.

The market modification was requested by congress in the STELAR legislation renewing the satellite compulsory license.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.