Locast is America’s only free, nonprofit local broadcast TV digital translator streaming service that provides local broadcast TV channels via the Internet.
We serve consumers in dozens of U.S. TV markets, about half of all Americans, and want to continue growing so that some day, all Americans will have an affordable, accessible means of getting their local broadcast TV stations.
Our mission is to deliver to all Americans free, local broadcast TV service, particularly for consumers who can’t afford pay-TV like cable, satellite, or streaming, or who can’t get their local broadcast channels using an over-the-air antenna. For many Americans, Locast is their only link to local broadcast news, emergency information, weather, sports, and entertainment. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Locast performs a critical public service by increasing access to local broadcast channels – on the go, over the Internet, on any device.
Locast is supported by user donations and can be downloaded for free from app stores or at www.locast.org.
Locast – Delivering a Public Service
For decades, millions of Americans have been unable to watch their free local TV channels over-the-air due to distance from the transmitter, topography, or large buildings blocking their signals. Other consumers simply can’t afford to pay the rising rates charged by cable and satellite TV providers to receive their free over-the-air local channels. And some want to watch their local channels on mobile devices outside the home. Locast solves these problems by making it free and convenient for viewers and cord-cutters to watch their local TV channels via Internet-connected computers, smart TVs, phones, or tablets.
The Locast Story
Locast started as an idea to help people who no longer could afford pay-TV or who could not get their local TV stations over-the-air. It’s a story of legal theory, activism, and determination.
Locast founder and chairman David Goodfriend has a passion for finding ways to help disenfranchised consumers. A former FCC, congressional, and White House lawyer, and an adjunct professor of law, Goodfriend is no stranger to the intersection of media, law, and technology. Apart from his public policy advocacy practice, Goodfriend in 2009 formed a nonprofit fan-advocacy group called Sports Fans Coalition to give sports fans a greater voice in public policy impacting professional and collegiate sports.
Sports Fans Coalition is best known for taking on the NFL, the broadcast industry, and professional sports leagues to end the FCC’s decades-old Sports Blackout Rule. Despite the fact that the NFL benefitted from taxpayer-financed stadiums, antitrust exemptions, and other public subsidies, the League for decades blacked out games when a stadium didn’t sell out, which harmed fans, especially those living in economically struggling communities like Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Jacksonville. Despite the opposition and massive lobbying and legal resources deployed by the NFL, professional sports leagues, and the broadcast industry, Sports Fans Coalition won a unanimous, bipartisan FCC vote in 2014 to end the Sports Blackout Rule. Days later, the NFL voluntarily suspended its local blackout policy.
It was a major win for sports fans and consumers across the USA. Most importantly, it was a victory for sports fans who could not afford to attend a game but still wanted to watch the action on TV.
Affordability and access, however, remained a problem. Just as fans who could not afford to buy a ticket to the game were punished unfairly by the Sports Blackout Rule, Americans who could not afford cable, satellite, or other forms of pay TV increasingly were shut out from their local broadcast TV stations as the price of pay-TV increased. Moreover, after the broadcast digital transition, many Americans who had been able to watch local TV over the air could not get an adequate broadcast signal.
Goodfriend thought that this was unfair, especially because the federal government had given licenses worth billions of dollars to broadcasters who were supposed to provide local news, weather, sports, and entertainment for free to viewers everywhere in the USA. Through his work at the FCC and as a law professor, Goodfriend knew of a decades-old Copyright Act provision that allowed non-profits to retransmit local broadcast signals and thought, why not use that to provide local stations over the Internet?
In 2017, Goodfriend founded a new non-profit, Sports Fans Coalition NY, Inc., which in January, 2018, launched the nation’s first non-profit digital translator service in New York City under the name, “Locast,” a mashup of “local” and “broadcast.”
Locast.org is a digital translator service that operates similarly to a traditional broadcast repeater service operated by nonprofit organizations, except instead of using an over-the-air signal to boost a broadcaster’s signal, Locast streams the channels through the internet to consumers in dozens of cities.
This benefits consumers by allowing local TV channels to be viewed on mobile phones, tablets, computers, or streaming media players.
Congress Authorized a Service Like Locast
Locast retransmits local TV channels under a provision of the Copyright Act of 1976 (17 U.S.C. 111(a)(5)) that allows nonprofit translator services to rebroadcast local stations without receiving a copyright license from the broadcaster. Congress enacted this law to ensure that local broadcasters, which use public airwaves, are reaching as many citizens as possible. The federal statute states that a nonprofit organization may retransmit a local broadcast signal and collect a fee to cover the cost of operations.
Locast offers its service for free and asks viewers to donate as little as $5 per month to help cover operating costs. The donation is voluntary and not required to watch local TV via Locast. A $5 donation per month will suspend video donation requests on our service.
Locast’s Legal Fight
In July 2019, a year and a half after Locast started offering its public service, the parent companies of CBS, NBC, FOX, and DISNEY’s ABC sued Locast in an attempt to shut it down. They also took the unusual step of suing Goodfriend personally, which he thinks was just an attempt to scare him into shutting down Locast. It didn’t work.
These big media companies claimed that Locast is not a real nonprofit deserving to operate under Section 111(a)(5) of the Copyright Act. Locast countersued the giant media companies, defending Locast’s proper interpretation of the Copyright Act and accusing them of illegal collusion to undermine a small nonprofit.
The good news is that Locast continues to serve millions of Americans and more people use Locast every day. While the lawsuit has been pending, Locast launches new markets in large cities and small communities across the USA. In March 2020, the nonprofit public interest advocacy group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), joined the outstanding legal team defending Locast.
Broadcast TV is a vital source of local news and cultural programming for millions of people which matters now more than ever because of COVID-19. But some broadcasters want to use copyright law to control when, where, and how people can receive their local TV broadcasts, and force people to buy expensive pay-TV services just to get their local news and sports.
EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mitch StoltzMarch 30, 2020, press announcement
EFF joins the case as co-counsel alongside law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. EFF has a long history of fighting copyright abuse and defending innovation that benefits the public.
The Public ♥ Locast
Thousands of Locast users explained in messages, letters, and posts why they love Locast. Here are just a few examples:
I am a single mom to a disabled son who is 22 years old. I cannot put an antenna on my roof. I can’t afford one to begin with and can’t physically put one up. I can’t afford regular cable, never cared for movie channels. I just like watching local news, which is good if I need to evacuate in an emergency. Regular cable costs $180.00 a month– that’s just for basic cable with internet. . . . I can’t afford that– no one can, with rent, utilities, and food, on $1,000 a month on Social Security. Please don’t take away the free service of having local channels. It’s just greedy high power cable Companies [that want to take it away]. Thank you.
Locast is a wonderful service to many like me and my family who cannot receive local TV channels with an over-the-air signal. We live in a rural area in the valley, so an antenna does not work. I wouldn’t even know how to begin to install one on my roof. We also live so far away from the broadcast tower that we would not get most of the channels anyway. Our cell phone company does not even have service without a booster through the modem. Having local TV channels through the internet has been the only way. We cannot afford to pay the rising cable and satellite prices for a handful of channels. We don’t have many options for internet and get charged whatever the company wants without competition. Our family watches local TV channels for entertainment but also important news and especially weather and school updates! We live in an area that has the possibilities of tornadoes or floods.
I would first like to thank Locast for assisting me with getting local channels. I live over 60 miles from TV towers and I am unable to get them over the air. Due to the rising cost of satellite and cable, I am unable to afford even the basic package and have no other way to watch the local news. Without Locast, my family would not have known about the tornado and flood warning in my area on 02-06-2020. Locast has allowed me and my family to stay current with local and national news, to include the Coronavirus and how to take precautions. During this age, it seems big business is only concerned about making an extra buck instead of helping the less fortunate have quality TV programming. Again, without Locast, my family would not be able to stay current with the local and national news, to include weather warnings.
We Need Your Support Today…
Locast is free to you, but it’s not free to operate. Please donate $5 per month to help us continue streaming local channels in your city.