On August 29, 2011, the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC or Commission) Media Bureau released a Report to Congress analyzing the availability of in-state broadcast programming for consumers pursuant to Section 304 of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act of 2010 (STELA). The report examines the statutory and regulatory provisions governing the carriage of broadcast stations and how they impact access to in-state broadcast stations, provides an overview of consumer and congressional concerns regarding access to in-state broadcast programming and sets forth the results of the Bureau's data analyses as mandated by Section 304 of STELA.
The Bureau found that, based on FCC data, an overwhelming majority (99.98 percent) of the 117.2 million total U.S. households are predicted to have access to in-state programming either via over-the-air transmission or via a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD). However, the Bureau also noted that the record demonstrates anecdotal examples of counties in which consumers have limited or no access to an in-state broadcast television station and, thus, lack access to in-state political and election coverage, public affairs programming and weather and emergency information.
The Bureau's specific STELA Section 304 findings are as follows:
- Section 304(1) - Analysis of Households Receiving a Local Broadcast Station Signal From a Different State: The Bureau found that at least some households receive one or more out-of-state broadcast stations in all but two states (Alaska and Hawaii). In four states, fewer than 10 percent of households receive out-of-state stations (California, Montana, Utah and Arizona). In the District of Columbia and three states (Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island), 100 percent of households receive at least one out-of-state station, and in an additional five states, more than 90 percent of households receive such stations (Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Illinois). Using the same methodology, the Bureau found that households that receive only out-of-state broadcast stations represent a small percentage of the population. Specifically, only five states have more than one percent of households that receive no in-state programming (Minnesota, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Vermont and Kansas).
- Section 304(2) - Analysis of Consumer Access to In-State Broadcast Programming: As noted above, the Bureau found that about 99.98 of total U.S. households have access to at least one in-state station either over the air or via MVPD. Approximately 99.92 percent of U.S. households can receive at least one in-state station via over-the-air reception and, nationwide, households within each state segment examined receive on average about nine in-state broadcast stations over the air, including full-power stations, low-power stations, Class A stations and translators. In addition, 98.4 percent of U.S. households are able to receive at least one in-state broadcast station via DBS carriage.
- Section 304(3) - Alternatives to DMAs for Defining Local Television Markets: The Bureau considered alternatives to the use of designated market areas (DMAs) to define local markets that would provide more consumers with in-state broadcast programming. According to the Bureau, numerous commenters cited the positive attributes of the current DMA system and explained that redefining markets has the potential to disrupt television advertising markets, program exclusivity agreements, cable and satellite carriage obligations, and local television station ownership structures, and may reduce the amount of locally relevant broadcast programming. The Bureau outlined the advantages and disadvantages of alternatives to the current DMA system, including defining geographic viewing markets based on state boundaries, expanding the existing market modification process, expanding the license for DBS carriage of out-of-market, in-state broadcast stations, allowing MVPDs to carry non-duplicating local news programming, and modifying the significantly viewed process to increase access to in-state broadcast stations.
A link to the Report to Congress can be found here.