Q. I have Dish but what I don’t have is my local ABC station in the Baltimore area. They are fighting with Dish over money or something like that. My question is whether there’s any way to keep watching my ABC channel without getting an antenna? I don’t know if Dish will ever get my channel back and I like Dish so I don’t want to cancel it. — Tammy, Towson, Maryland.
Update: Dish & Scripps Sign New Deal
Tammy, as you may know, Dish on July 25 lost approximately 60 local network affiliates in 42 markets due to a fee fight with their owner, Scripps. The markets affected include New York, Milwaukee, Phoenix, San Diego, Corpus Christi, Texas, and Baltimore where your local ABC affiliate, WMAR-TV, is located. You can see a complete list of the Scripps stations here.
Now you can get WMAR-TV with an antenna, assuming you live close enough to the station’s tower and there’s not a large building or mountain nearby. (Antennas are not perfect.) But, Tammy, you want to watch without an antenna so let me offer one solution.
Locast is a free service that delivers local channels over the Internet in 23 markets, which represents roughly 44 percent of U.S. population. (The markets are: Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, West Palm Beach, Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Tampa Bay, Denver, Los Angeles, Rapid City, San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Your local channels would be available in the Baltimore or Washington markets.)
You download the Locast app on a computer, tablet or Smart TV device such as Roku, provide a name and e-mail address, and suddenly you are watching all your local channels. I can’t vouch for the reliability of the signals. I have used Locast a few times and found it to be a bit inconsistent. But it’s free so you can’t beat that.
How can Locast offer this for free? Is that legal, you might be wondering?
The four major broadcast networks (CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC) say no. They have filed a lawsuit to declare the service to be illegal. The networks claim that Locast is violating their copyright by transmitting their signals without their permission. In 2014, the networks won a similar lawsuit against Aereo, which sold their signals without authorization.
Locast has filed a counter lawsuit claiming it’s different from Aereo because it’s a non-profit service (it asks users for donations) which should exempt it from the Copyright Act.
The legal battle is still pending, and it’s unclear when it will be resolved. So until then, Tammy, Locast is free and legal. And you can watch it anytime you want.
Final note: Dish subscribers who have lost their local channels in a separate dispute with Apollo Global/Cox Media may also want to check out Locast.
Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann