Valuable broadcast spectrum has been allocated by the federal government to for-profit broadcast entities for the public benefit. Yet, the free, over-the-air (OTA) broadcast signals are paid for by a vast majority of television consumers across the United States via their cable bill.
Today, many homes have difficulty receiving the free digital OTA broadcast services via an antenna unlike when many of us were kids. Cost-sensitive cord-cutters and cord-shavers shouldn’t be penalized from receiving OTA signals for free simply because they live in a home that is geographically hindered. At the same time, small independent broadcasters need to reach new audiences online as more and more cable subscribers cut the cord and cannot receive an OTA signal.
The easy solution is internet retransmission of the broadcast signals to consumers by a nonprofit for the benefit of all consumers.
The first meaningful nonprofit organization to do this is Locast, which has been cheered on by cord-cutter and cord-shaver consumers across the country. [The networks two weeks ago filed suit claiming copyright infringement]. The Copyright Act, which made a well thought-out exception for a nonprofit organization to retransmit broadcast signals that are otherwise free, is very clear. Section 111(a)(5) of the Act has been around since 1976 and says that a nonprofit may retransmit a broadcast signal.
Many broadcasters benefit from Locast because they need to reach online audiences and, for many reasons, are unable to do so. By expanding the reach of local broadcast signals, Locast helps the small, independent broadcasters build audiences with younger, online viewers.
Politicians and regulators need to speak out and reconfirm the existing right for a nonprofit to retransmit broadcast signals. It’s a simple solution to blackouts and excessive cable bills, and helps independent broadcasters reach online audiences.