Rep. Ben Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-NM, highlighted the passage of legislation July 23 that included an amendment he offered as part of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) reauthorization.
Luján’s amendment explores how new broadcasting markets could be created if they are based upon the potential of current and future technologies instead of the limitations of aging broadcasting antennas. The STELA bill reauthorizes the nation’s satellite television law, ensuring that 1.5 million subscribers in hard-to-reach areas continue to receive broadcast programming.
Currently, television viewers are limited to broadcasts that are intended for their designated market areas (DMA). The FCC has delegated the role of defining these DMAs to the Nielsen Company, a privately-held for-profit marketing research company. Nielsen has divided up the country into separate DMAs based upon the reach of a television station’s antiquated broadcast antennas.
These antennas, which were considered cutting-edge technology back in the 1950’s, are now relied upon by less than 10 percent of viewers, but continue to determine the broadcast stations available at any given location in the country.
“Despite new technological innovations, television viewers remain limited to broadcasts that are intended for their designated market areas based upon maps that were drawn decades ago,” Luján said. “As traditional services such as over-the-air broadcast, cable, and satellite companies have been joined by new alternatives such as over-the-top content, Internet Protocol television, and other services, it is time to revisit DMAs so that Nielsen’s maps of almost obsolete antenna networks no longer block consumers from accessing programing from outside their DMA.”
Luján’s amendment allows the FCC to embrace and explore the possibilities of cutting-edge technologies and their impact on broadcasting by building on a study of DMAs commissioned by the last STELA bill in 2010. It requires the FCC to update its earlier study and explore how new broadcasting markets could be created if they are based upon the potential of current and future technologies instead of the limitations of aging broadcast antennas.
“With a broadband connection, viewers can watch an almost infinite amount of on-demand video online. With a smartphone, tablet, or other mobile device, they can watch this content from a wi-fi hotspot or virtually anywhere with wireless service. Through the Internet, consumers can listen to radio signals from around the globe,” Luján said. “But under this antiquated system governing the boundaries of a DMA, viewers in Clovis, Portales, or Tucumcari cannot watch TV broadcasted from New Mexico. It’s time to examine how we can improve this outdated system.”