David Goodfriend is an attorney and advocate in Washington, D.C. He is a former Clinton Administration aide, where he served as Deputy Staff Secretary to the 42nd American President. Goodfriend was a legal advisor to FCC Commissioner Susan Ness. He graduated summa cum laude from Beloit College and is co-host of “Left Jab” on Sirius-XM Satellite Radio. Goodfriend is also the founder and Chairman of Sports Fans Coalition, a coalition of sports activists, fighting to give sports fans greater voice in public policy impacting professional and collegiate sports. Goodfriend was a co-founder and EVP/General Counsel of Air America Radio, and was Vice President of Law and Public Policy at DISH Network, EchoStar Satellite LLC (DISH Network).February 9, 2018
Q: I feel free TV is one of those things people hear about but many folks don’t act on it — because we sometimes question whether we’re dancing with illegal groups if we do, etc. What are the statutes about free TV and accessing it?
There’s actually a very thorough, well-reasoned legal argument that’s been presented to me and to members of my board by an outside law firm that’s very well regarded in the copyright field. What they told us is, the copyright statute itself, since 1976, has had a provision that says any non-profit can retransmit a broadcast signal provided that the non-profit doesn’t benefit directly or indirectly financially, and if it charges a fee, it only charges enough to cover costs. That’s it. That has been on the books since 1976, and it’s that provision that so-called ‘translator stations’ have always used for more than four decades to justify what they’re doing.
Q: So we should think of it like an antenna? Is it easy?
A translator station is just an antenna, basically, that receives the TV signal and then boosts it, sends out another over-the-air signal so that the broadcast signal can reach the outer extremities of a market, and that’s been done by non-profits under this statute for decades, since 1976. It’s never been challenged by broadcasters or anybody else; it’s never even been litigated. The statutory provision just sits on the books and has been used, and no one’s ever had an argument over it.
Sports Fans Coalition formed a New York chapter last year called Sports Fans Coalition New York that’s organized under the non-profit corporate laws of New York, and we started our own translator service. The difference is this is over the internet instead of over the air. We restrict access to only people within the New York City five boroughs.
If you’ve got a computer or a smartphone or a tablet, go to www.LoCast.org. The site shows a channel guide; you can click on a channel and watch. The name locast is from “local” and “broadcast” put together. There are 15 stations for New York being streamed to New Yorkers, and the goal is the exact same goal the translator stations have always had which is: broadcasting is supposed to be available for free or at minimal cost to the public – everybody in the local market. And if you cannot get an over the air signal, and you don’t subscribe to cable, we’re the answer.
Q: Who’s on your board and what do they bring to the table?
Well, in the New York non-profit there’s three [board members] — there’s myself, Habiba Alcindor, and Phillip Berenbroick, who’s a public interest attorney based in Washington. All three of us also serve on the Board of Directors for Sports Fans Coalition, the main non-profit that’s been around since 2009. So, the New York chapter currently has a board comprised of a subset of board members from the national chapter.
I really was hopeful Habiba would participate, not only because she is local but because she cares so much about non-profit advocacy and non-profit activity. She’s really been a sort-of ‘keeper of the flame’ for what it means to have a non-profit mission. So, for example, we’re increasingly reaching out to residents of public housing in New York City to say: ‘We’ve got a lower cost option for you, if you don’t want to pay for cable and you can’t get an over the air signal, we have an option for you.’ And she’s been a really good evangelist, if you will, of that proposition.