Monday, October 23, 2006
The city of Boston, often at the forefront of local law, is considering an ordinance to strictly curtail satellite dishes that are visible from public view in historic areas. Some residents are complaining that the dishes, which often proliferate with new owners and new technology, are eyesores and depress property values.
In all the furor, I make a few points: First, a law requiring out-of-the-way placement of dishes doesn’t seem any more intrusive than laws regulating signs, old cars, or laundry lines on residential property. Second, it’s ironic that government can sometimes tell a property owner that it can’t install a dish, but that the government can’t force a landlord to accept a thin cable line outside an apartment building without compensation (Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp, 458 U.S. 419 (1982)). Third, it’s fascinating that local ordinances against dishes are complicated by a congressionally-mandated FCC rule (47 C.F.R. § 1.4000) that protects a citizen’s right to encumbered satellite TV reception (but not in historic areas). The right to 657 TV channels has got to be in the Bill of Rights, yes?