Local TV broadcasts set to “vanish” from satellite TV

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

We’ve received plenty of feedback on this story – suggesting we may have the story wrong. We’ll dig deeper and and square it away. In any case, we’ll ensure you get the right information, even if it involves eating a little crow. —RD

Are you an RVer who depends on satellite TV? You may have already heard from your satellite provider that there are big changes in the works. Effective June 1, satellite TV companies won’t be providing local network channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, CW and FOX, when the user is away from their home area. What’s up with that? It’s all because of a thing called STELAR.

STELAR is an act under U.S. law, standing for Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization. Under current law, TV broadcasters like ABC need to provide their signals, free of charge, to people using an antenna. That’s good, provided you can actually get the signal. For folks far away from a broadcast station, or in an area where signals are broken up by things like mountains, getting that signal can be impossible. And then there are RVers, who may “live” in Iowa, but head to Arizona for the winter. Getting their “home” local news is fine when in Iowa, but don’t go too far down the interstate or the signal is gone.

Enter satellite dish companies. For years users were able to “tune in” their home stations clear across the country via their satellite dish. To make the deal attractive to local broadcast systems, the satellite providers had to pay to get permission to rebroadcast those signals to you, their customer. It’s technically called “retransmission consent.” The STELAR act theoretically smoothed the way for satellite dish providers and local broadcasters to work out the details of these transactions, and permitted the whole thing to work. Trouble is, STELAR was never a permanent act, rather, it had to be re-approved by Congress every five years. The time for that reapproval came up in 2019. Congress couldn’t come to an agreement; STELAR croaked. Some satellite customers lost their “local” broadcast channels Jaunary 1; others, RVers and long-haul drivers for instance, will be losing them May 1 – unless something unusual happens.

If it weren’t for the COVID-19, the demise of STELAR might not be getting the “play” in the news that it is. But coop people up in their homes, settle a pandemic outside of their front door, and they need INFORMATION. There’s another group of satellite dish users who are also getting hit hard. These are “under-served” communities. If you live out in the middle-of-nowhere, there probably just isn’t any local broadcast station that you could tune into, even if you stuck a TV antenna way up above the barn. This group of folks had been included in STELAR – and like traveling folks such as RVers, they were “graced” with an additional six months of air time for local broadcasts. They, too, will see local signals go dark on June 1.

Enter a former Congressman from Virginia. Rick Boucher served from 1983 to 2011, and in his appointments served on committees directly involved with the STELAR act back in the day. Many of Boucher’s former constituents live in areas where local broadcast signals just can’t be had. It irks Boucher no end that now, in the middle of a public health crisis, information on what to do, and not do, will simply dry up when the satellite companies “flip the switch” in a couple of weeks.

Writing on rollcall.com, Boucher says, “By failing to renew provisions in the law that allow satellite TV companies like DirecTV to bring signals from TV stations outside of local markets into those places where a TV signal can’t penetrate, Congress ignored a basic rural need.” But Rick Boucher takes a broader view than most politicians. He widens the scope to others. “It’s not only those who live in the countryside who got the cold shoulder, but long-haul truckers and RV owners too. Their only access to network programming is through distant network signals.”

The die has been cast, and Congress didn’t renew STELAR when it could. But the coronavirus pandemic might just be something that could draw the attention of lawmakers now in Congress. Boucher suggests something that might be done: “Congress can and should give rural residents, truckers and RVers a break during the coronavirus pandemic and hold off on implementing the new law during this pivotal year,” he writes. “That won’t solve the problem Congress created, but it will give lawmakers time to reconsider their mistake, and in the meantime ensure that all Americans can continue to avoid TV blackouts and get the information they need during one of our nation’s most trying times.”

Translated? For those who feel something needs to be done, a letter, e-mail, or phone call to your representatives on Capitol Hill, if nothing else, will let them know someone out there will be affected when those local broadcast stations vanish from your satellite TV.

##RVT948b

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Brad
1 month ago

I don’t think this is the venue for political discussion but if our Congress was doing what it is supposed to do we might not have this issue to talk about.

Belinda Wilkins
1 month ago

This is a ridiculous law. We live in a small town in west Texas. The nearest “local network Stations” are in San Angelo, Texas which is 87 miles away. We have always received our network stations from New York or Los Angeles. Now we receive them from no one. We have lost network tv completely. Direct Tv is telling us they can’t offer the San Angelo stations as an option, yet dish network does! Are we all suppose to switch to Dish? Why can dish provide network tv from San Angelo but Direct Tv cannot? This makes no sense. Do we just not matter because we are a rural community?

peg vetri
2 months ago

sadly the “story” is true. we have already lost our ability to receive our “home” network channels. we are travelers who work for the national park service. we have been doing so for 20 years. our gigs in various areas last anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. we enjoyed getting news from our home area. we received networks from new york. allowed us to keep up on what was happening in the states bordering our own. the government has allowed the networks, read that the federal government, tell us and those that lie in areas that do not get off air reception what we can watch. it is the fault of the federal government that this has happened.

Layne
2 months ago

We live outside Cooperstown, NY. No OTA TV available. When we first started with Directv 20 years ago, At our home, the only “local” major network channels were out of New York City. However, we had to pay for them. And, still do, pay for those so that, when we travel in the summer, we also receive those channels in the RV. Five years ago, Directv started to provide, at our home and at no cost, the local channels for our viewing area (from Utica, NY). But, we continued to pay for the NYC stations, too.

We received a notice two weeks ago that, as of 1 June, due to the expiration of STELAR, we will no longer receive the NYC (paid) stations but our local area stations would not be affected. We are ok with that. For the past two or three years of travel, we’ve been able to pick up at least one of the major networks OTA, which is really important because we travel back from The West during tornado season!

Jack
2 months ago

For what it’s worth, I just spoke with Dish Outdoor and they have not heard anything about cutting out any local channels. I believe this is a Directv problem. I have not had good luck with DIRECTV at home or RV so don’t use them in RV anymore. Dish in RV is the way to go.

DENNIS J CHARPENTIER
2 months ago

So, our Congress just let the STELAR act lapse because they are basically lazy. If they weren’t so busy trying to secure power for themselves and their party, maybe Congress could actually get something done that helped the people they are supposed to serve.

rag_ftw
2 months ago

Please remember this when yo go to the polls this November. WE elected them and WE can elect someone else!

Jerry X Shea
2 months ago

20 years with DIRECTV and then AT&T bought DirecTV. In August of 2018 we had purchased a new RV and paid for a DirecTV satellite dish. In November of 2018, AT&T “cut the cord” to our “East & West Feed” for all the major networks. I spend 6 months “fighting” with them to give it back, and it never happened. (You can just imagine what comment I would like to post here – Ha)
After 20 years we said “——————” and dropped DirecTV.
We got a ROKU for both our home and RV (use the same one for both) and could not be happier.

mzmony
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry X Shea

I lost the East and West Coast feeds with DirecTV YEARS ago When they provided the local they cut out the coasts. When CBS wasnt playing nice they offered to give me the East Coast feed for, i think $3 a month extra. they sent me an antenna too which of course wouldnt work in the mountains. Curious, do your local stations come in on Roku?

Karen
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry X Shea

How do you get your wifi to work well with the Roku? I have tried this with my apple tv and fire stick and campground wifi doesn’t support and my personal hot spot ran out of minutes fast!

peg vetri
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry X Shea

we have had direct tv since 2003. we to have had nothing but trouble since at&t purchased direct tv. we have had all of the problems you have mentioned and more.
if you could have heard the language used by this 80 year old woman you would have been shocked. question – what is roku and how do we get it?

Denny Wagaman
2 months ago

Wouldn’t it be best to get the facts from DIRECTV and or Dish? Maybe the writer did.
Years ago I did receive my local channel from the west coast when I was on the East Coast. But we also had the East coast / west coast feed until it was taken away last year from me through no fault of mine. (We don’t ask for our local channels anymore).
But i guess it was interesting reading all the comments.

peg vetri
2 months ago
Reply to  Denny Wagaman

we did get the facts from direct tv – i spent days on the phone with them. we originally got both east coast (new york) and west coast (la) both. we had both from 2003 til receiving a notice last week. they have reassigned us to the area we are working in right now – arizona – why i don’t know because that is not our home state.since at&t bought direct tv we have had to buy new equipment just to receive any tv – receiver and the antenna. we can no longer use the antenna mounted on the roof of our rv. my husband now has to breakdown the outside equipment every time we move instead of keeping everything as is and just dialing the correct direction which we were able to do automatically.

David Hagen
2 months ago

A lot of responses to this post don’t understand that Distant Networks are ONLY available to Directv subscribers. Also, to get locals I would need to get a new dish for my RV at my expense. Many locals are on a different satellite. So they are not an option for me. Beside, if you have an RV or semi-truck and move around a lot, you will have to change locals every time (as often as every night) you move. I thought this article represented the problem very well.

Craig MacKenna
2 months ago

The writers of this article did not know their subject very well.

DirecTV has informed me that my access to New York and Los Angeles channels, which have been available to me (because I pay extra for them) anywhere in the country, will no longer be available. Those RVers who have stick-and-brick homes elsewhere than in NY or LA never had the ability to carry the stations from their homes around the country with them. There simply aren’t enough satellite transceivers to send all of the network stations in the country, to all parts of the country.

DirecTV has also informed me that I will continue to have access to TV stations that are local to where I am, as long as I update my service address when I lose the spot beam aimed at a prior location. Yes, in some places this does not amount to much, but we have found in 7 years of full-timing that only about 10% of our stops don’t have most or all of the 4 major US networks.

In defence of the article writers, several of the comments contain errors as well. (I’m not otherwise going to comment on individual comments.) This stuff is not rocket science!

Billy Bob Thornton
2 months ago

Oh, those networks are still broadcasting, news to me.

Bob Harnish
2 months ago

Nothing against the folks that don’t have DNS provided only by DirecTV, but this is entirely different than “locals”. You have to understand DNS. And as far as getting TV over the internet, that is fine if you have internet. But there are many places in the US that can’t even get the internet. And if you think locals and getting off OTA is the ticket, think again. Many locals signal is very week and doesn’t reach very far.

Diane Mc
2 months ago

We got an email from Direct TV notifying us of this, effective June 1st. When we ordered our MH in 2002 it added the satellite dish. Called Direct TV and was able to get the locals for Los Angeles and New York on both coasts for FOX & CBS. The nice thing about this, is we get them at home so have a wider choice of sporting events. When we used to watch some shows (now only sports & news) we could watch them 3 hours earlier! ABC & NBC were too much trouble to deal with, so didn’t bother with them. When we are in Florida for a couple of months I call Direct TV and give them the address I “moved” to, then return it to our home address when we were on our way back home. We listen to local radio shows when traveling to get local news and feel more a part of the community we are in. If we are in an area with possible storms/tornados we will hook up to cable at an RV park or use our antenna if dry camping. Regarding not watching TV while traveling. That’s why we have a DVR. Bring one of our DVR’s from home. That way we can record racing, golf or whatever, sightsee, shop, go out to lunch, dinner, then watch at our leisure. We get the best of both.

DPHooper
2 months ago

Not sure about this article.
I am a Dish customer and travel live fulltime on the road.
I simply notify Dish by text or phone when I reach a new area, provide zip code, and my network channels are changed to local for that area.
I’ve received no notification this is changing to “no networks”
As others have said this story needs some fact checking

chris p hemstead
2 months ago
Reply to  DPHooper

It’s called DNS (Distant network services). Apparently you don’t have it. Calling Dish to change locals isn’t what the article is about.

John
2 months ago

A couple weeks ago direct tv emailed me and said the DNS will end on June 1, 2020
This will mean for direct you will no longer receive ABC – NBC – CBS – FOX while RVing away from my home base

I’m looking into Internet for locals as air antenna has proven poor service over the years for us
The issue with Internet locals is it requires a good wifi signal – which we don’t always have

This removal of DNS is a Huge negative for us – we generally travel 6 or 7 months away from our home base – usually 1500 to 2000 miles away from home

chris p hemstead
2 months ago
Reply to  John

huge

Firefly
2 months ago

Unfortunately a poorly researched story. Here are the basics:
The entire country is divided into 210 local TV markets (DMAs) that are served by over-the-air broadcast television stations located in the market. The broadcasters can choose to be carried over cable operators networks and cable operators are limited to only carrying the local broadcast stations. So if you are in Topeka you get the Topeka stations not the Los Angeles stations. Quite simple to do from a cable network standpoint. Not so simple for satellite carriers because they have a limited amount of wireless bandwidth. The solution in the early years was to carry the stations from a few major markets (NY, LA, Chicago) and make them available nationwide. That takes money out of the pockets of local broadcasters so Congress stepped in to limit this and force satellite operators to come up with alternatives. The alternative was the development of spot beams on teh satellites. The beams cover a smaller area and allow the frequencies to be re-used. So the local broadcasters’ signals are carried on spot beams so that more TV markets have local stations available by satellite. Problem is there are 210 markets and satellite operators were reluctant to invest for small markets (Glendive MT has only 5k households in it I recall). So if the satellite operator carried local stations in your location, they were largely required to provide them. Largely, because there was a loophole. If your home could not receive an over-the-air signal then you would be eligible to get distant network stations (LA, NYC, or somewhere) that were not carried on spot beams and so available nationwide. And some people prefer the distant because they get more stations (Glendive I believe has a single TV station .. maybe 2). DISH abused the process and created much badwill with the broadcast industry. That drove many of the changes to the law and the controversies that makes it difficult to reauthorize the legislation. Though there are no shortages of other issues because billions of dollars are transferred between distributors like Dish, Comcast, etc and television broadcast stations for the right to carry (retransmit) local broadcast stations.

Fast forward to today and all local TV markets are carried on satellite. For stationary people it may mean they are stuck with fewer stations because they are in a small TV market like Glendive, but they still get their local stations. For traveling RVers, it’s complicated. In theory the satellite operators should provide the stations local to your location and there should not be a legal issue as long as they reach a retransmission consent agreement with the broadcaster. But as usual, the devil is in the details. How will satellite operators choose to implement this? That is the story that should have been written and I hope you will do so in the future.

Teri
2 months ago
Reply to  Firefly

I live in NW Montana, and FCC considers Spokane, WA as our Local channel. Spokane is 2 States and a Time Zone away from us!!! Years ago this allowed us with Direct TV to have East and West stations. This was great, then they disconnected some of us (have a local friend that still has it but will be discontinued on June 1st.) We left Direct and went to Dish. Had Spokane,WA local until finally got them to use our summer RV address in Flathead/Missoula area. So finally after many years we finally get to watch Montana News, weather alerts and Politics…

chris p hemstead
2 months ago
Reply to  Firefly

It’s called DNS. That’s what the article is about.

Mark
2 months ago
Reply to  Firefly

How does the satellite company know if you are in a particular viewing area? Those satellites that broadcast your TV programs are positioned about 100,000 miles above the equator; too far to be influenced by your location. I don’t have satellite but always assumed the exact same programming is available to everyone regardless of where they are. If I have to notify my Satellite TV company where I am then why not simply lie and say I am in Glendive MT because (for example) my brother is mayor of that city and i wanna follow his progress etc.

Jim C.
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark

You would think that’s the case but it’s not. I travel with my home DVR and temporary dish. When I get to my destination, not only do I not get the local channels from my permanent home where I came from, but I also don’t get the local channels from at my new destination until I call into dish and change my address. Don’t know how it works – but it does.

Dave Kaiser
2 months ago
Reply to  Jim C.

Finally, someone who had the same experience as I. We bought our camper in 05 with a crank up dish. Subscribed to Dish and enjoyed locals two states away. Then in 2018 we installed a Playmaker on the roof and lost our locals, unless we were close to home. I believe, because the Playmaker finds the sats by itself, it knows where you are. Dish network will deny I ever received locals out of area but I know better. Thanks for the input here.

Charlie
2 months ago

I don’t think this is a problem. The internet allows me to see any local TV News Programs where I am. Since I have the latest internet option and get it anywhere my cell phone works, I have local news, much better and faster internet and CHEAPER, I keep in touch anywhere in the country.

There is always an answer to any problem. Email me if you want the info.
RV.Resources4You@gmail.com

mzmony
2 months ago
Reply to  Charlie

I tried to watch local stations over the internet, in particular CBS when they werent playing nice with my satellite provider, and they want you to pay $10 a month for the privilege. “all access” Unless you are in a metropolitan area where I understand there are some ways to get it free, like its supposed to be. Id be very interested to hear your process & will email you.

keith
2 months ago

I agree with Will. We quit watching most tv especially the news at home and on the road. Nothing on there worth wasting my time on. Have a dish that came with rv that has never been used and don’t know how to use.

Timothy J Detiveaux
2 months ago

We stream our local stations and don’t even have satellite TV anymore.

Dan
2 months ago

The nice part about going RVing is that you unleash from the daily trappings offered by TV. I can get local news from the radio while looking at much better things mother nature has to offer.