Congress has viewed television broadcast localism as a primary legislative objective, with television broadcast stations serving as important sources of local news and public affairs programming. To protect local broadcast television stations and further the objective of localism, the Copyright Act, Communications Act of 1934, and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations restrict the ability of cable and DBS operators to import broadcast signals from outside the local area. Two key regulations include the following:
- Network nonduplication: This rule protects local commercial and noncommercial broadcast television stations’ rights to be the exclusive distributor of network programming within their local area.
- Syndicated exclusivity: This rule protects the distribution rights for distributors of syndicated programming, including local broadcast stations within a designated zone.
The four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC — own or have affiliate television broadcast stations in most local television markets, known as designated market areas (DMA), throughout the nation. However, some local television markets lack access to one or more of the four major broadcast networks; these markets are referred to as short markets. Further, some households are unable to receive an adequate over-the-air signal from one or more of the local stations owned by or affiliated with the four major broadcast networks, typically because these households reside a significant distance from the television station's broadcast tower; these households are also "unserved households."
- ↑ 47 C.F.R. §§76.92 and 76.122.
- ↑ Id. §§76.101, 76.103, and 76.123(b).
- ↑ The FCC categorizes television broadcast signals by grades of signal strength, with Grade A being the strongest. An unserved household is unable to receive a signal of Grade B strength or better. Unserved households include homes of all types, including recreational vehicles and commercial trucks.