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FCC Could Pre-empt Local Rules on Receiving Dishes

March 29, 1985

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Unreasonable local zoning rules banning satellite receiving dishes would be pre-empted by the federal government under a proposal by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday.

More than a million backyard and rooftop earth stations, or dishes, have been set up by people who want to watch the hundreds of TV programs being transmitted via satellite.

They do this either because they have difficulty receiving over-the-air TV or want a wider choice.

In at least a dozen cities and towns, local zoning measures have restricted the building of the dishes.

The FCC staff said there is evidence that some of the zoning rules were put in place to help cable TV companies by limiting a resident’s access to satellite programming.

The proposed rule would limit local jurisdiction to those cases where there are direct, tangible and clearly articulated health, safety or aesthetic concerns and the rule is not unduly restrictive.

The federal pre-emption would leave with local governments the right to enact the least restrictive rules to deal with such concerns.

James R. Keegan of the commission’s common carrier bureau said the proposal might allow a ban on dishes in a town like Williamsburg, Va., where all outside TV antennas are outlawed in the historic area to maintain aesthetic beauty. But he said it might be used to overturn or block a rule in a town that allowed TV transmission and ham radio towers.

He said he was aware of the enacting of zoning restrictions in Chicago, Skokie, Ill., and Plantation, Fla., but believed that there were others.

The commission said it hopes to have a rule in place on the issue by June.

The Society for Private and Commercial Earth Stations estimates that dishes are being installed at the rate of 60,000 a month.

People wishing to comment on the proposal have 30 says to write to the Federal Communications Commission; 1919 M St., N.W.; Washington, D.C. 20554.

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