Carlos Villalobos, 21, who was selling tube-shaped digital antennas at a swap meet in San Diego recently, says customers often ask if his $20 to $25 products are legal. "They don't trust me when I say that these are actually free local channels," he says.Carlos Villalobos sells digital antennas at a swap meet. PHOTO: RYAN KNUTSON/THE WALL STREET JOURNALEarlier this year, he got an earful from a woman who didn't get it. "She was mad," he recalls. "She says, 'No, you can't live in America for free, what are you talking about?'"
In 2013, during a congressional hearing about the satellite-television industry, the discussion turned to a contract dispute that temporarily left Time Warner Cable subscribers unable to watch CBS."Can I make one point?" said Gerard Waldron, an attorney who testified on behalf of the National Association of Broadcasters. "I just want to emphasize that broadcast is a free, over the air service. So during the so-called blackout, the service was available 100% of the time. I realize that some people might not have antennas, or some people might have reception problems, but I do want to emphasize...""So I could have seen CBS if I had rabbit ears?" Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) interjected. "I don't think people knew that."A spokesman for Rep. Bass said she was aware TV antennas existed, just not that the station was still broadcast during a cable blackout.