Commentary

Are Nonprofits The Better Way To Air Local TV?

Aereo? FilmOn? You may have some company in the fringe quasi-legal, digital-pay TV provider space.

Another group thinks it has found a better way to air local broadcast TV stations free to consumers -- all without paying fees to those TV outlets — form a nonprofit organization.

A nonprofit group, Sports Fans Coalition, is launching locast.org — a mashup of “local” and “broadcast” — a New York broadcast TV station over-the-top streaming service. All in time for some big sports programming to come in the coming weeks.

But the group has no intention of compensating any of the 13 New York-area TV stations.

Instead, the group is relying on something else. According to the Federal Copyright Act, a “secondary transmission” of TV stations is allowed if it “is not made by a cable system but is made by a governmental body, or other nonprofit organization, without any purpose of direct or indirect commercial advantage, and without charge to the recipients of the secondary transmission...”

David Goodfriend, chairman of Sports Fans Coalition, says the group will attempt to push this service to other markets -- but with the recognition of what’s to come: "We're going to give it a shot, and we're going to get sued.”

The National Association of Broadcasters believes that last part, too. The NAB stated: “We are deeply skeptical that this service will survive legal scrutiny where its predecessors have failed.”

Indeed, other virtual digital pay TV providers -- Aereo and FilmOn -- waded into this area in previous years, using other arguments based on other federal rules. Both were found on the wrong side of legal fees and issues concerning over-the-air TV stations.

Why do groups still linger in this troubled area? Some entrepreneurs view broadcast-only TV consumers as a real potential growth area.

But for a nonprofit, what’s the financial model here? Maybe potential consumers will make “donations” for the service and get a tax deduction for their efforts.

If you are a low-budget TV consumer and don’t want to get bog down in whether this is right or wrong, there is an easy way to go. Get a cheap over-the-air digital antenna. Or, watch lots of free YouTube for your entertainment/sports needs.

Now just find that free broadband service.

2 comments about "Are Nonprofits The Better Way To Air Local TV?".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, January 12, 2018 at 3:24 p.m.

    That non-profit idea sounds just crazy and somehow sensible enough to work. 

    One thing it addresses is something that has puzzled me for years; ... if some small entity rebroadcasts programming in its entirety, including all commercials, without edits or additions of any kind, what is the harm to the original broadcaster of that content?  I know this question has been hashed and rehashed multiple times, in and out of court, but I have never heard a reasonable objection to it. 

    Whatever the ultimate answer is - if such an answer even exists - there has to be a better way than what we have now, where some viewers often have absolutely no way to view certain televised programs, at any cost, with any service provider. 

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, January 12, 2018 at 10:18 p.m.

    Good point Chuck.

    Here in Australia Foxtel is allowed to re-transmit the Free-To-Air (FTA) channels as long as is in re-broadcast intact (all ads, promos, bumpers, PSAs etc. untouched).   This is a benefit to the viewer as all the FTA channels are there on the cable box.

    Regarding the 'not-for-profit' we need to define the word profit.   What is we set up an NFP retrandmission, let's call it Chuch & John's for arguments sake and we raked in a million bucks with $500k running costs ... would we just pay ourselves $250k each so that there was no profit?

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