Local news, weather, and sports on free over-the-air broadcast are meant to be seen by the public. The airwaves used by broadcasters (for free) are a public resource. Sports stadiums and arenas often are built with taxpayer money or other public goods. Broadcasters state that they serve the public with local news and weather, which like sports are very important to New Yorkers. The public policy behind the broadcast industry, and the advertising model used by commercial broadcasters, has local access to free TV at its core.
Many New Yorkers, however, cannot receive a free, over-the-air broadcast signal. As in other urban areas, tall buildings often make it difficult to receive an over-the-air signal in an apartment or condo. Technical changes to broadcasting have made it harder to get a signal– the transition to digital broadcasting changed the signal propagation characteristics of over-the-air signals and the recent “incentive auction” at the FCC in which some broadcasters sold their licenses while others will have to change their frequency contributed to this trend. Meanwhile, more and more consumers are “cutting the cord” and no longer receive cable or satellite TV service, relying instead on over-the-air broadcast signals.
Locast.org helps to keep the promise of public access to local broadcasting –including to watch local news, weather, and sports– alive in the era of cord-cutting, changing broadcast signals, and Internet video.