I Want My MTV...er...Satellite TV!

Bruce at mAss Backwards brings up the possibility that the city of Boston may try to ban satellite dishes from locations where they may be seen by the public.

While at first glance this may seem like a good idea, one has to wonder if the local cable franchise(s) might be behind this move. After all, the cable companies have been slowly losing ground to the satellite providers and this is one way slow down or reverse those loses, at least in Boston. Keeping dishes from the front of buildings, where they are visible, may make it impossible to use them because they depend on a direct line of sight to the satellite. Move the dishes to the rear of a building and it may make it impossible to receive the satellite signal.

But wait! There may be a problem with this plan.

As I wrote in a comment to Bruce's post, there is a federal pre-emption when it comes to outdoor antennas used to pick up 'free' or for-pay broadcast services. Any such ordinance passed by the city could be challenged in court and mostly likely struck down.

The pre-emption was created when some homeowner/condo associations and a few towns banned external TV antennas which, in effect, forced residents to subscribe to cable TV or to do without. The FCC saw that as restraint of trade and regulation of radio and TV by non-FCC agencies. Only the FCC has that power, as laid out by the Communications Act of 1934.

The city of Boston doesn't have the power to restrict or ban the use or location of satellite TV dishes. Of course I expect that they won't let that little inconvenience stop them from trying.

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