Ronkonkoma, Long Island-based nonprofit, Sports Fan Coalition NY is offering a new public service, locast.org, that provides users with free live streams of 14 local television channels via the Internet.
Local channels, including affiliates of CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox, provide coverage on local news, weather and sports, and were intended to be a free-of-charge public resource, the coalition argues. But in urban areas in New York, where tall buildings loom, a free, over-the-air signal is sometimes difficult to receive unless there’s access to a rooftop antenna. Locast.org, however, keeps access to local broadcasting available to New Yorkers, especially in this current era of “cord-cutting”— in which more and more viewers are cancelling their cable or satellite subscriptions.
“Whether you’re watching the biggest game of the year, looking for your local news or simply tuning into your favorite television show, I truly believe in the public interest mission of ensuring universal access to local broadcast stations for little to no cost,” said Habiba Alcindor, a board member of Sports Fans Coalition NY and daughter of NBA Legend & Hall of Famer, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
However, locast.org is likely putting itself under the crosshairs of broadcasters, who might regard the service as a forming of copying. Back in 2014, a similar streaming company, the Queens-based Aereo, shuttered after losing a legal case over the retransmission of broadcasters’ signals, Crain’s New York Business reports.
But where locast.org differs is that it’s operating as a nonprofit, which is technically allowed to make a secondary transmission of a local broadcast signal. The website operates under the same copyright statute that allows nonprofit broadcast translators to amplify and transmit a primary local broadcast TV station without a copyright license. Locast.org is simply streaming the signal over the Internet within the New York City market instead of utilizing an over-the-air signal.
Legal scrutiny will likely be a tricky topic locast.org will be forced to navigate around in the near future, but Sports Fans Coalition founder David Goodfriend, a former lawyer for Dish Network and Air America Radio, is entirely focused on the public-interest mission of the nonprofit, which will be funded through user donations.
“Locast.org provides a solution where viewers can watch local broadcast stations online without paying an arms and a leg for it,” he shares in a press release.
The launch of the service was timed to coincide with the start of this weekend’s NFL playoff games so that users can watch the event online. To tune in, simply sign up online on locast.org, provide your name and email address and certify that you live in the New York City market.
For more information on Sports Fan Coalition NY, visit www.locast.org.
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