Satellite Broadcasters Object to Philly Dish Restriction

WASHINGTON: Satellite broadcasters are going after a city ordinance in Philadelphia targeting receiver dishes. City council members have determined that satellite dishes are “clutter that, like graffiti, uncollected trash and broken windows, announces neglect,” according to the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association, which says the city’s requirements violate federal rules governing over-the-air reception devices.

The Federal Communications Commission’s OTARD rules prohibit “restrictions that would impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming.” The rules apply to satellite dishes less than one meter in diameter, TV antennas and wireless cable antennas. They further prohibit restrictions that would “unreasonably delay or prevent installation, maintenance or use; unreasonably increase the cost of installation, maintenance or use and preclude reception of an acceptable quality signal.”

The SBCA, along with Dish and DirecTV, is petitioning the FCC for a declaratory ruling on Philly’s ordinance.

The Philadelphia ordinance restricts dish placement on the street side of single family homes “as long as any alternative location is available--even if such location would require some material delay or additional expense of antenna location,” according to SBCA’s petition. It requires certification of no alternative locations are available, and that dishes be painted to match the house if they’re affixed in public view.

DirecTV and Dish said painting the antennas could run as much as $10 per installation, and it would likely degrade reception. The petitioners note also that Philly takes no similar position against air-conditioning units or trash cans. They also bring up the fact that the city gets franchise fees from the cable operators with whom the DBS operators compete.

“There can no longer be any doubt as to what this proceeding is about,” the petitioners wrote. “Philadelphia’s City Council has decided that satellite dishes are unsightly.”
~Deborah D. McAdams