The new technology of satellite television is replacing the propagation of sound through airwaves or any material medium. Satellite signals are beamed to the subscriber’s home from space. A satellite must hold a geostationary orbit directly above the earth’s equator at an altitude of 22,300 miles, so that it can maintain contact with the recipient of its signals. A geostationary orbit is one that keeps the satellite’s position fixed with respect to the earth.
The legal controversy of international concern that has been generated around satellite broadcasting is due to the limited number of geostationary satellites that such geostationary orbits in space can accommodate.
The USA pioneered the launch of the first geostationary satellite in 1963. The advanced countries including the United States were rapidly filling up the equatorial geostationary orbits with satellites thereby reducing the scope of the developing nations to set up their own satellites later on. Since the mid eighties these developing countries were concerned that shortly the zone of geostationary orbits would run out of space for further satellites and they would then be compelled to hire broadcast time from those countries already with their own satellites in space.
In this background in 1985 the United Nations set up the International Telecommunications Union to make new norms in order protect the interests of these developing nations. The first come first served policy, which so long held the field for allotment of geostationary orbits among nations, was replaced in 1988. Then the decision was that each member country of the International Telecommunications Union would be entitled to at least one geostationary orbit of its own. As a result the orbits, which the USA had once assumed to be its own, were reallocated among other nations. Naturally the USA has become more selective about granting satellite-broadcasting rights.
In the USA the Federal Communications Commission monitors rules, procedures and standards for regulating satellite space and earth station facilities, both domestic and international.
The Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 (SHVIA) made major changes to the Satellite Home Viewer Act of 1988, the Communications Act and the Copyright Act. The objectives of the said SHVIA include intensification of competition among the mutichannel video programming distributors, which includes satellite companies, cable television operators etc. and broadening the program choice range of the customers.
SHIVIA authorizes the satellite companies to provide distant network broadcast stations to eligible satellite subscribers. The said SHIVIA also allows satellite companies to provide local broadcast TV signals to all subscribers in a designated market area covering the local TV station’s market. This ability to provide local broadcast channels is known as ‘local into local service’.
Though satellite companies can provide ‘local into local service’, they are not obliged to do so. As a result, some satellite companies provide this service only in selected markets. (More http://www.fcc.gov/mb/shva/ )