The non-profit Sports Fans Coalition NY (SFCNY) has launched Locast.org, a free local broadcast video streaming service currently available in New York City, to the people of Dallas, TX, and announced the expansion of Locast.org in the coming weeks to three other top-10 markets. Locast.org has also premiered a new and improved user interface and a Locast Android App, designed to make it easier than ever before to watch local broadcast stations online.
“Broadcast TV since its inception was supposed to be free and available to the public, especially during football season, when every local professional game is on broadcast,” said SFCNY Chairman David Goodfriend. “Dallas is football country and this fall, Dallas fans will be able to watch their home team online for free,” he advised. “Texas taxpayers helped to pay for the stadiums, roads, ramps, and rights-of-way that make the games possible; they own the public airwaves that carry the games on TV; and they deserve to watch their home team play, even if they can’t get an over-the-air broadcast signal or don’t want to pay for cable or satellite,” he suggested.
Launched on January 11th, 2018 in New York City, Locast.org streams almost every full-power broadcast channel in a local market to anyone with an Internet connection located within the relevant Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA).
Locast.org is available for free but asks users to make a donation to the non-profit in order to maintain operations. Since the debut of Locast.org, tens of thousands of users in the New York City market who cannot receive an over-the-air broadcast signal or do not want to pay for cable or satellite TV service have enjoyed their local broadcast stations on Locast.org.
Locast.org operates under the copyright statute that allows non-profit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright licence from the broadcaster. The statute (17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5)) simply states that a non-profit organisation may retransmit a local broadcast signal and even charge a fee to cover the cost of operations. Locast.org operates similarly to non-profit ‘translator’ stations that receive an over-the-air local broadcast signal and retransmit it to boost the signal strength and expand the availability of local broadcast programming throughout a local market.
For decades, non-profit translator stations have helped complete the broadcasters’ public interest mission to provide access to their local broadcast programming. That is the same public interest mission Locast.org is bringing to the New York media market—through a 21st century, online digital solution. It’s the same non-profit public mission with modern technology.
“In the coming weeks, we will be launching Locast.org in three other top-10 markets,” said Goodfriend. “We’ve signed the local leases, bought the equipment, and tested the software. Once the installations are complete, we will have provided Locast.org to five of the biggest media markets in the US. All we ask is that users consider the expense of providing the service and make a donation so we can keep the ball rolling.”
“The new Android App makes it even easier to watch local broadcast TV online,” added Goodfriend. “Just download the App from the Google Play store and watch your local news, weather, sports, or favourite shows on your mobile device or smart TV.”
At the time of the New York launch, NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton noted that over the years, numerous services from Aereo to FilmOn had tried to find creative ways to skirt the communications and copyright laws that protect local broadcasters and tens of millions of viewers. “Without more details, this effort by the Sports Fan Coalition sounds like the latest such effort. We are deeply sceptical that this service will survive legal scrutiny where its predecessors have failed,” he added.