Right to Satellite TV May Be Law

Following a controversial court decision Tuesday, the Swedish government says the law may have to be changed to give tenants the right to put up antennas for satellite television.

The Stockholm Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that three families in the suburb of Rinkeby can be evicted for mounting satellite TV dishes on the outside wall of their apartment buildings.

Rinkeby is largely populated by refugees and other immigrants. Many residents have satellite dishes on their balconies, so they can watch television from home, channels not provided by their cable TV provider. But not all have balconies with unobstructed access to the satellites. The three families mounted their dishes on the outside wall.

The owner of the apartment building, however, objected to their satellite installations, claiming there was a danger such antennas could fall down and hurt someone. The company admitted the three dishes in question were safe, but said the principle had to be upheld.

The Regional Rent Tribunal disagreed, and a year ago approved the antenna installations, arguing that the immigrants’ right to information outweighed the property management company’s desire to maintain hard and fast rules. The landlord then appealed to a higher court, which on Tuesday reversed the tribunal, and said the tenants could be evicted at the end of March.

The decision has been widely criticised. Cabinet minister Mona Sahlin, who has responsibility for housing issues, says the law can be changed. She says people should have a right to see the TV programs they want, whether they live in a large house or a small rental apartment.

A former member of parliament working with immigrant issues has pointed out that the law in question is from 1917 and fails to reflect modern Sweden.

Meanwhile, the Tenants’ Union, which supported the three families, has already said it is willing to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.