Local Channels on DirecTV?

Tired of not getting TV reception on the north slope of the Southwest Mountains, my wife and I recently got DirecTV. We were surprised to discover that the channels that we really wanted — NBC, PBS, and Fox — weren’t provided. Neither were ABC or CBS. Due to crappy federal legislation, we need to pay $1.50/channel to get these stations, though only after being granted permission to get them. Apparently, DirecTV has to ask NBC 29 and Fox 27 if they’ll let me get NBC and Fox out of New York or L.A. The stations have the right to say “no,” and I’m told that there’s nothing that I can do about it. The process takes about 45 days.

Surely others in the area have dealt with this. There’s no way for me to get local stations? Is there any way that I can accelerate the process of getting these stations from NYC or L.A., or at least be assured that I’ll get my permission slip?

30 thoughts on “Local Channels on DirecTV?”

  1. Congratulations, you just went down the rabbit hole.

    The short answer is that all your waivers will be denied, since you can receive all of those stations OTA (over the air). There’s not really an appeals process or anything, so just consider yourself screwed and hoist up an antenna.

    Now, there are other options… contact me on a more private medium for details.

  2. …and as an addendum, it’s not DirecTV’s fault. They want to give you the channels, but their hands are tied by the FCC. It’s NBC29 and the people at Gray that you’ll have to fight with, and they have zero incentive to budge, so they won’t.

  3. yeah, it blows if you have HD. You can get HDTV with 29 but you can’t with the new stations Fox, ABC, and CBS. You have to wait for them to change which I heard was late 2007.

  4. The short answer is that all your waivers will be denied, since you can receive all of those stations OTA (over the air).

    But I can’t get ’em over the air — that’s the problem. That’s the only reason I’m paying for DirecTV. Getting 12 different home shopping channels doesn’t really excite me. :) The trouble is the several million tons of granite between me and Carter’s Mountain. Living on the north slope of the Southwest Mountains means that we don’t get TV, we don’t get a lot of radio stations, and we don’t get mobile phone service.

  5. Welcome to the living nightmare of the tiny little technologically primitive village. For anyone that wants HDTV, this is not the place to be. If you have a house high on a hill you can get the ABC, CBS, and FOX from Richmond. Unfortunately, those stations do not entirely understand the concept of broadcasting.

    As for local stations, NBC is no problem. The other stations broadcast at a combined power of 15 watts or so. Even when you live 50 feet from the tower reception is a problem.

    When I first signed up for DTV and they asked the local stations, I ended up getting permission from NBC and CBS. We didn’t have a FOX back then. The miserable station in Harrisonburg did not give permission. I love my national HD feeds of CBS, NBC, and FOX. I’m pissed beyond recognition at the miserable little station in Harrisonburg. I’m not even sure where it is. Is it that city by the toxic highway of 81? Do people even live there?

    The fact that our local reps don’t want to get high def cable here in the village is yet another disaster. We might be the most backward village in VA on that front. Even Pat Robertson can get HD cable.

    Legislation needs to be changed to provide at least a bit of freedom to consumers. If we want to watch a network we should be allowed to do so. Local politicians should begin to force actions, and not just sit around spending millions to debate the cost of a 20 foot chunk of road that may cross the downtown mall. Abysmal.

  6. Uh. Having your limbs severed by Hutu rebels while being raped and watching your children be murdered is a “living nightmare.” Not getting NBC? I’m gonna go with “annoyance.”

    You really seem very unhappy living in Charlottesville. I mean, it makes for high-larious reading, but, seriously, this doesn’t seem to be working out for you. Had you considered someplace else and abandoning the “village” to us simple townfolk?

  7. Well, then it’s possible you may have your waivers approved! Give the Chief engineer over at Gray a call and see what they can work out.

    Can you get the Richmond stations?

  8. DISH Network has added over 6,000 new customers to their local channel here in the pasy year. I just recently switched to DISH and love it.

  9. Long post warning …

    You have 3 choices. #1, wait for an answer from the locals, accept what they say (they may allow you to get remote networks, it’s really practically arbitrary.)

    #2 … get DISH, which apparently carries the local C-ville networks. I don’t know about that firsthand.

    #3 … and my personal choice … stick it to The Man. Call DirecTV, give them a new service address, and make up an address in Northern Virginia, or suburban Maryland … someplace that will qualify for DC locals. Just don’t make it a real address, lest you have the DirecTV operator comment that the house you are calling for already has DirecTV. Make up a street # on a street you know of. DirecTV will quite willingly change your address, and you will qualify for DC locals. Tell them you want them. $5.99 per month for 4, 5, 7, 9, 14, 20, 22, 26, 32, 50. Several PBS’ in there, plus all 4 major networks, plus UPN and WB. And a Hispanic channel, if that’s your schtick.

    The point is this … DirecTV doesn’t want to deny you anything you are willing to pay for. So this works. I did it. In terms of technology, the swath of land that the DirecTV satellite transponder that carries DC locals on is large enough that it goes farther south than C-ville. It’s in fact a large oval with DC in the upper right quadrant, near the center. Want to test to be certain? Go to satellite setup, check the strength of transponder 18. That’s where the DC locals are. If you get that signal, you will receive the locals. You just need DirecTV to turn them on.

    Don’t change your billing address, just the service address. Bills come to you, you get DC locals, DirecTV is happy. You are happy. Everyone is happy … except The Man. So stick it to him.

    BTW – some will naysay this “oh, it won’t work. DirecTV will catch you.” Whatever. I did it, many others have done it (search the ‘net.) For reasons I won’t bore you with here, DirecTV isn’t going to stop you.

  10. Can you get the Richmond stations?

    We get nothin’. Static. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

    Every so often, when our antenna is pointed correctly, the windows are blowing electrons about merrily, and we’re close enough to the TV where we act as an antenna, we can both make out a picture on NBC and hear audio simultaneously. This is, however, a rare treat. I’m aware of the existence of ABC, CBS, and Fox stations in C’ville and Richmond, but I’ve never actually witnessed them.

  11. Airman, your advice is great. I may well pursue it.

    On the topic of Dish Network, that was our first choice. They came out here twice, but, again, the mountain being the way. I’ll get the numbers a bit wrong, but Dish’s satellites are at 27°, nearly due south, which is behind the mountain. DirecTV’s are up at 35°, which gave the installer pause — he didn’t want to do an install only to find that it didn’t work. He did it, and it worked, but he said that once the leaves come back on the trees, our service may well disappear. (There’s a forest on the side of said mountain.)

    Being dumb, I figured DirecTV was about the same thing, only a little more expensive, so I ordered it as soon as Dish gave up on us. Once we got DirecTV, I found out how very different that it is.

  12. I’m not a fan of the local stations, so that wouldn’t be a disincentive for me. Plus I like the idea of getting the west coast feed that DirecTV offers.

    I’d never purchase Dish. Dish is owned by SBC (the company that bought AT&T) SBC customer service stinks, plus they export their tech support jobs to overseas subcontractors. While their sales department stays in the U.S. And of course if you don’t know enough about what you’re purchasing from them there sales dept will tell you whatever you want to hear to close the deal. After that you’re usually on your own.

    And this is just speculation, but I’m sure that government installation on that mountain probably has some equiptment that may be indirectly causing problems with your broadcast reception. Of course the geography doesn’t help much either.

  13. Leaves can be a problem, but they don’t always kill the signal. They may weaken it, causing rain fade to be worse during the summer, but you just have to wait and see, as your installer said.

    The decision on granting an exception is based on decades-old contour maps showing where VHF and UHF signals can be received. I’m guessing, definitely just a guess, that you will be granted waivers if you are physically blocked by the ridges around you. But it’s not like someone is going to come to your house to witness the lack of signal. Not to mention … what type of antennae constitutes a good attempt to receive the signal? Rabbit ears? A 20 foot extension on your roof with a motor to rotate the aerial and point where it needs to for each station (although with the C-ville stations their all pretty much on Carter’s, as you said)? They don’t ask what you have.

    It’s really just arbitrary. I know people who get waivers even though they absolutely *can* receive a local station over the air. I also know people who called DirecTV and asked for distant locals (NY and LA) and simply got them, no questions asked. Others get told no. Again, it’s arbitrary.

    As for why it works this way … as you know, local channels need viewers for ad revenue, so this law was created to protect them. When DirecTV started to offer locals to major metropolitan areas, they only offered major networks. So, for example, in DC, they may have offered 4,5,7, and 9 (the four big ones) but not 20 or 50 (Paramount and UPN.) The small local channels got together and sued DirecTV saying it wasn’t fair to them, as they would lose viewers as people switched to satellite. They won. DirecTV appealed, but as the appeal was being handled DirecTV also readied another satellite to go up in orbit. You see, they didn’t have enough bandwidth on their existing satellites to handle *every* local channel in a given market. They fought while working towards the launch. On the day of the launch, DirecTV dropped it’s appeal. There was no reason to fight it anymore, the money had been spent. They now had enough satellites in orbit to handle all these local channels.

    And what does that make DirecTV? Bitter. They didn’t want to spend all that cash but had to (and, arguably, needed to, it really wasn’t fair to the small channels.) But they don’t have to enforce these rules. If you say your TV is in northern Virginia, they are happy to believe you and sell you the DC locals. Many people have second homes with DirecTV but have the bills go to one place. It’s perfectly normal.

    I wanted networks that were somewhat local, so DC was better for me than NY and LA.

    Just to make this long post even longer … these changes by DirecTV did have a negative effect on some people. Before this, every channel on DirecTV was broadcast to the entire country. So if locals were offered for Miami, a Dolphins fan in Denver could see them by telling DirecTV his TV was in Miami. Not anymore. Now they broadcast the locals geographically (per my earlier post about DC’s oval.) That ticked off people who had done this trick for years. You now can only get “regional” locals (as they are called) if you live somewhat close to the city, because if you are too far away you simply won’t receive the signal.

    I’ve posted more in this thread than in all my other posts combined. I think I should stop now. :)

    Good luck with it!

  14. Whoa, thanks, Airman. :) I’m particular intrigued at the idea that the spooks down the road (they’re about a mile from us) have anything to do with this, not necessarily because I think it’s true, but because I like the idea of it being true. :)

  15. We used to have DIRECTV, and were able to obtain a waiver from the Harrisonburg ABC station. You MAY be able to force the Charlottesville stations to grant waivers. There is (or at least was) a caluse in the Satellite Home Viewers Act (SHVA) that absolved you of the need to obtain waivers from local stations if you are unable in your location to receive a Grade B broadcast signal. If you can’t get the level of signal, they are required by law to grant the waiver.

    If they respond that their Langley-Rice contour map calculations indicate you get an acceptable signal, and you DON’T, respond and ask them to send an engineer with a signal meter to test. That’s what I had to do.

    For reference: here’s the Act – the relevant section is 1005, which begins on page 17 (and my memory hasn’t falied me completely – a Grade B signal is the standard, and using a conventional, stationary rooftop antenna is the standard – they can’t make you buy some newfangled super nucular whiz bang contraption antenna). It’s also in plain old English here.

    I got my waiver a few weeks after sending a faux legal-soundling letter to the station that I copied to John Warner’s office – and Gray owns that station as well. Their broadcast signal here is very weak – if you’re in the rural county, you probably can’t get a Grade B signal any way. NBC29 would not grant a waiver – and their signal is fine where we live so I didn’t bother challenging them to send aout an engineer. It you just can’t receive their signal, you might want to push them pretty hard.

    Hopefully the next update of the SHVA will resolve this nonsense. As more and more people shift to satellite, the odds increase. And as fewer and fewer local statioins upgrade to HD, the odds increase. Hopefully, for those who are cable able, whenever the Adelphia ownership issue is settled we’ll see an upgrade, but that will take years – perhaps many years. If you want HD programming around here, satellite is the only way to get it (unless you’re an NBC junkie). I’ve heard tell that DIRECTV is lobbying HARD for the absolute right to provide HD programming without waiver to locations where it isn’t available on local cable, so stay tuned (local broadcasters have a pretty massive lobby, but DIRECTV has many pissed-off customers behind them).

    Good luck!

  16. I was forced to get satellite TV once I moved from the downtown area nearly 5 years ago, and like Waldo, Dish TV was not an option due to the surrounding topography. I got DirecTV and gave up on local stations. But I refused to give up on network stations altogether. NBC surprisingly allowed me to have the NY/LA feed since I could get the ghost outline of our locals. FOX and CBS never blinked. As others stated, the buttheads at the Harrisonburg ABC were the biggest holdouts. I was rejected twice before writing a letter letting them know I preferred the local station but couldn’t get it, so please let me have national access to such wonderful shows as Monday Night Football, Drew Carey and whatever else seemd like a somewhat believable lie. It worked. I now have NY/LA feeds of all four national networks and am completely afraid to ask about changes.

  17. Wow, Al, that’s some interesting information about the legal aspects of all of this. I knew that this was all based in FCC regulations, but never knew the specifics. Thanks for the round-up.

  18. Actually, you do have a recourse. As stated in SHVERA (Satellite Home Viewers Extension and Reauthorization Act), if you are entitled to a signal test done at your house within 30 days of requesting one from the satellite provider, at no charge. They have to work with your local stations to contract a 3rd party to perform the ILLR test. If you score worse then Grade B, you are automatically elegible for the waivers. If you score B or greater, well you are screwed and need to try to beg the waivers anyway.

    Small print at DirecTV: An “unserved household” is defined in the statute as one that receives less than a Grade B signal from their local TV stations. SHVERA requires that we use the Individual Location Longley-Rice (“ILLR”) model to determine whether a customer resides in an unserved household. If you are predicted to receive a Grade B or better signal, you may still request waivers from your local stations.

    And the National Association of Broadcasters has the following link which refers to signal strenght testing: http://www.nab.org/MembersOnly/nabsays/legal/SHVAfaq.asp#q7

    I have DirecTV and had to go through the signal testing route 6 years ago. A pain, but it resulted in automatic waivers due to poor signal strength.

  19. Lots of good information in this thread. I still maintain that while you can jump through the seemingly unending series of hoops to try to get broadcast networks, you can have DC locals in less than 5 minutes if you call DirecTV and tell them you have a second home just outside of DC. :-)

    I’m looking forward to your updates as you sort through this.

  20. Airman, anyway to see a map of how the locals are broadcast on direct tv?, and dish does have all the locals here, but they are on a lower satellite in the sky, hence the signal will fade on them sooner than on the other channels, but I have not really had an issue with that so far

  21. I can’t find the map I used back when I did this, but I did find a few useful sites. As with most things like this, not all sites agree with each other exactly (the circles don’t always line up from one map to the next,) but the concepts are the same. From what I found it looks like DC locals are still on transponder 18.

    Try these:

    (a color map of spot beams)

    (the FAQ for the above map of spot beams, with lots of useful info and links to other useful pages)

    (another map)

    (and one more map)

    For us in central VA there is a beam (#21 on some of these maps) that holds the DC and Baltimore channels. On one of the maps the beam goes way down to Charlotte, NC. On another it stops closer to us right here. The key is to check the strength of transponder 18 on your own receiver. If it’s strong, you should be able to receive the DC locals.

    I know Richmond locals are on DirecTV now as well. And I see Roanoke listed as transponder 4, with the signal beam maybe getting far enough north for us, maybe not. Just have to check the signal strength to know.

  22. it’s funny — i just had directv installed at my house this past monday, and i was lamenting my loss of local channels as well. then i came across this post, took airman’s advice, and i should hopefully be receiving local (DC) channels by the time i get home tonight. thanks guys!

  23. I’m shocked at the lack of research here. When Hubby and I bought a house in Waynesboro, we wanted to ditch Adelphia since we had an HD TV. I looked into both Direct and Dish – did we really need local channels? (At that time being 29 only?) What were the differences in the packages and cost? Now, having Dish come out and saying it wouldn’t work at our place would have been a big monkey wrench.

    We ended up staying with Adelphia because for reasons known only to them, they offer HD service in Waynesboro. We discovered this before we contacted the satellite folks. And this way we still have our high speed internet access without an extra bill. And Hubby was dead set against satellite Internet. He plays too many online games plus his new acceptance to an online school made it unacceptable.

  24. this question is for airman or anyone else who can answer it. i recently performed the service address change deal for a friend and it worked beautifully. he has an HD tv however and I understand that I need to get a LNB 5 dish with the newest HD receiver to get the local versions of the DC stations in HD.

    I tried to get DTV to do the install (which I understand is not trivial), but their computer system balked at doing it in C’ville. Does anyone have any suggestions of who I can get to do the install and where I can get the equipment?

  25. I don’t know of anyone specific to do the installation, but I believe there are companies in C-ville to do such a thing.

    Glad to hear the locals are working out for people.

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