Why Does The Goverment Hate Satellite Service Providers?

from the Physics,-Economics,-and-Definition-of-'Fair' dept

Earlier this week, Rep. Bart Stupak, from rural Michigan, introduced a bill to require Dish Network and DirecTV (SatTV) to carry local TV channels in all US markets. Stupak said that the current practice of only carrying local channels for major population centers is unfair to rural citizens. But Stupak seems to miss two important economic and scientific factors against his wishes, as well as an understanding of competition and what is fair

Physics sets hard limits to how many channels of TV SatTV can broadcast from their existing satellites. And with the public now clamoring for more HDTV, SatTV is now desperately trying to shoe-horn more HD channels into the limited capacity they have, so they can compete effectively with cable (an important role). SatTV carriers must trade-off between content for the whole country, and content for local audiences. In the case of large metro cities, the audience size tips the trade-off towards local content. Yet Stupak seems to think that it's worth using up scarce nationwide capacity to carry local content for every town that has a TV station. Ridiculous. The needs of the many subjugated to the needs of the few?

Then Stupak also seems to ignore the economic argument that these SatTV enterprises are businesses trying to stay afloat. They are not public services. And the SatTV companies need to deliver a product that can attract a sizeable audience, or the service will be a sure money loser.

If Stupak thinks it's fair to force SatTV to provide product for small towns, they why not force the same of the NFL or airlines? Shouldn't we also require the NFL to put a team in any town that wants one, or is the NFL unfairly discriminating against rural America? And airlines should be required to have flights to every airport, too, right Rep. Stupak? Sir, these aren't public services, nor charities. Your Bill would increase costs to all of us, and reduce available services to the nation by redirecting resources to sparsely populate areas.

I've said it before, and I know I'll get hate responses when I say it again, but there are trade-offs people make when they choose to live in the city, OR in the countryside. Tough. We city folk trade off fresh air, open spaces, bucolic lifestyles, good schools, flora, ample space and land, open roads and more. Rural people sacrifice retail options, entertaiment services, Internet access, and more. Life is full of trade-off decisions. Not everyone makes the same choices, and that IS fair...in fact it should be celebrated and called freedom.

Does the government just dislike satellite services for some reason? Mike has steadily covered the impact of a slow government approval of a Sirius-XM merger. While the merger definitely reduced competitors in the sat radio space, that space is NOT the market in which those two companies operate. If they go broke in part because of gov't meddling, we will only then see a significant reduction in competition in the much wider portable audio entertainment industry, which is the actual market under consideration.

In toto, SatTV has been a fantastic boon for rural dwellers, offering them a range of entertainment options that were never before available outside of major cities. This is the upside of a distribution network that targets the whole country with one signal. The downside is a reduced capacity for local programming. As a bonus to rural dwellers, although satellite Internet isn't great, at least it gives you an option. In town, SatTV delivery market, especially back in the day when cable was unchallenged by the telcos. Aren't satellite services, recent arrivals on the scene, competition engines, and a market success story? Why would the congressman want to squeeze this winner until it can't breathe?
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: bart stupak, michigan, satellite tv

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Feb 2009 @ 5:53am


    In some cases you're so far away from a city that the only way to receive any signal at all is through satellite. That said, I live in the country & don't feel a need to get local stations. As long as I can get the networks, I'm good.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.