Your RV satellite feed may be affected if Congress fails to act

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By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Do you take your satellite broadcasts with you when you travel? Plenty of on-the-road RVers do, keeping up with their local news and information, as well as their favorite shows. But having that local feed while far away could vanish if Congress doesn’t take positive action to, as Captain Picard says, “Make it so.”

Liz Sullivan on wikimedia.org

The ability to get local broadcasts via satellite feed while away from that “market area” is made possible by a few lines in the U.S. Copyright Act. Section 119 of the act allows satellite providers to cross over market lines and provide access to out-of-area viewers. Without the provision, it would be flat illegal for the satellite provider to do it. It’s legal now, but come the end of the year, the provision “sunsets,” meaning, your hometown news may just vanish from your satellite feed.

On July 29 a letter was sent to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee urging them to vote to preserve the provision of the copyright law that allows DIRECTV and DISH Network to provide Distant Network Signals to RVers and others. The letter was drafted by groups representing RVers, RV manufacturers and dealers, and other groups representing the RV park and campground industry.


To RVers and other users, this would seem like a shoo-in vote. But don’t bet the farm – there are plenty of opposers. On Tuesday, July 30, just a few days after the RV-friendly letter was sent to the committee, the U.S. Register of Copyrights, Karyn Temple, appeared before the committee and asked the group to allow the Section 119 loophole to simply die.

Backing her opinion is the writing of Rep. Jared Golden (D-Me.) in a letter referring to the sunsetting of Section 119. In the letter, addressed to the leadership of the House Energy & Commerce and Judiciary Committees, Golden wrote, “It is clear that the distant signal license has outlived its usefulness.”

Others have gone so far as to suggest that the Section 119 allowance somehow does a disservice to RVers and other traveling satellite-TV users. In a web story carried by broadcastingcable.com comes this quote: “The distant signal license may also negatively impact subscribers: several Members of Congress recently expressed concern that the Section 119 compulsory license provides satellite operators with a financial incentive to deny subscribers local broadcast stations—including the news, weather, and emergency information carried by those local broadcast stations—and instead import distant broadcasts at below-market rates.”

A news release from the groups coming up to bat for the continuation of Section 119 lay out this argument. “Through the establishment and regular re-authorization of Section 119, Congress has recognized that providing local signals via satellite to an RVer in every market into which they travel is impractical, both technically, and from the standpoint of clearing the rights.

“RVers represent a unique segment of the population who regularly travel to areas where broadcast signals to watch television over-the-air are not available or where the wireless broadband to receive over-the-top services such as Nextflix and Hulu are also not available.

“If Congress fails to reauthorize Section 119, these RVers will lose access to the network signals resulting in a negative impact on quality of life, safety and security for the millions of RVers who rely on this law.”

Where the future of the extension of Section 119 lies is anything but clear. In fact, you might even say the view is anything but staticky. Much depends on whose signals Congress deems the most believable.


9 COMMENTS

  1. Although it won’t help in any areas without a cellular signal, Dish has an app called Dish Anywhere. We can log into our home satellite and see anything we want from that feed – or use the DVR. Between that, Netflix and Amazon Prime, we really don’t use the coach satellite feed. Last two trips we haven’t even bothered to activate it. We get local weather warnings using the “Storm” app on our phones.

  2. Up until one year ago we had a crank-up dish antenna and could get our local stations no matter where we were. Then we installed a Playmaker on the roof and lost that ability. The Playmaker knows where you are. Dish Network insisted that we could not have received locals out of the “footprint” and every time we moved we would have to call to enable the locals in what-ever area we were in. So, according to this article, Dish Network lies.

    • afaik locals are spot beamed. move out of the beam and you lose those locals. we use the DISH app to change our service location to get the locals. we prefer having the locals for where we are for news and weather rather than the home locals or DNS.

      • Am I to understand that you move out of the “spot beam” and lose your locals but use an app to restore locals where ever you are despite of the spot beam? This I don’t get. Remember that I had said that with the crank up we could receive our locals where ever we were, that went on for over 12 years until we got the Playmaker that finds the sats for us. Not trying to be rude or demeaning but to me things don’t add up. (trying to understand better)

    • When setting up your Dish network antenna, changing the zip code in order to automatically point and find the satellites, eliminates your local channels. If instead you leave all settings the same, and use a pointing app on your phone to find the coordinates to point at, you will keep all the previous settings. Once you change the zip code setting, you will not be able to re-establish it with out calling tech support. It has nothing to do with “Spot Beams” Unless you cross into Mexico. Clinton and NAFTA made US satellites unavailable in Mexico. Since Canada made no such agreement, if you have a Canadian subscription you can get Canadian Satellite TV in Mexico. Government interference seldom accomplishes what they intend.

  3. What most people do not realize Section 119 was put into place in the 80’s to provide more competition in television broadcast providers. Cable had the vast majority of video subscribers and the Federal Government wanted to bring in more competition via broadcast and satellite service providers. Copyright rules had to change to bring this to pass. Before Section 119 local providers had exclusive programming rights of their copyrighted material in their designated market area (DMA). This had nothing to do with getting your home signals while on the road. It was all about competition and future dollars. When Section 119 was put into place it had a lot of opposition from a lot of broadcast and cable groups which basically set aside established FCC and Copyright rules. With digital transmission of over the air signals and IP delivered programming this copyright rule has probably outlived its usefulness except for the Rver.

  4. I can see many sides to this. I live in an area where I am forced to watch small town versions of the majors but if I lived two miles further east I could watch the majors on big city broadcasts. There is no comparison so I park my motor home in the other county so I can watch what I want. Satellite providers say that Congress forces them to offer what Congress says.

  5. We no longer have satellite TV in the RV. We are cord cutters, both at home and in the RV. Using our winegard digital HD antenna, we get local HD quality TV free of charge. And it works for us very well, without the high cost.

  6. I believe sunsetting section 119 could violate “universal access” laws. In short, if it’s reasonably technically possible to deliver a signal, providers are required to.

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