OTARD Retards

Every once in a while, we like to talk about the FCC’s OTARD rules. You know, the Over-The-Air Reception Devices Rule (for you legal types, it’s cited as 47 C.F.R. Section 1.4000). Jonathan Bellows ranted about his satellite dish and his apartment complex’s management (since we haven’t heard from Bellows in a while, he might have ranted a bit too much). Now it’s my turn.

Actually, the problem with satellite dishes and over-the-air antennas isn’t so much with homeowners associations and property managers as much as it is with the television industry itself.

I’m in the middle of a petition with the FCC for a declaratory ruling on some restrictions on satellite dish placement and the need to get approval before installation. The reason I have a petition in front of the Commission is that I know what my rights are under OTARD. Most folks don’t.

DirecTV and DISH have easily lost out on a few thousand dollars a year in revenue where I live (there are over 1,200 homes in my community) because homeowners were told by the homeowners association where they could and could not install a dish, without regard to signal receivability. The same goes for placement of an over-the-air antenna without regard for signal strength or cost of installation. Most homeowners shrugged their shoulders, gave up on satellite, and signed up for cable.

Not that there’s anything wrong with cable...well, not much...at least cable’s trying with local HD, the “big differentiator.”

You’ve seen the ads on TV for DirecTV. Actors reading customer letters about how DirecTV kicks cable’s ass and how DirecTV ranked number one in a J.D. Power customer satisfaction survey. You’ve seen the ads for DISH and how they have the lowest all-digital price in America. You might have even caught a local TV station promo about the station’s conversion to digital and HD.
What you’ve probably never seen, but should have, is a spot that says something like this:

“Are you a home owner? Do you know that in most cases, federal law allows you to install a satellite dish/digital over-the-air antenna? Even if you rent, you may be able to have a satellite dish/digital over-the-air antenna. For more information, contact...”

But what you really should have seen is a PSA from the FCC saying exactly the same thing.