By Adam R Jacobson
RBR + TVBR
For decades, television viewers in the far southwestern corner of Colorado have received their network TV programming via stations based in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe, N. Mex., DMA.
In the old days, this was done out of necessity, as the signals of such stations as Hubbard Broadcasting‘s NBC-affiliated KOB-4 and Hearst‘s ABC-affiliated KOAT-7 could be easily received and placed on local cable systems; translators across La Plata County boosted the over-the-air availability of these stations.
Today, thanks to satellites and digital technology, in-state programming from faraway Denver stations can now reach viewers in the area, where the picturesque town of Durango serves as La Plata County Seat.
But, a change couldn’t simply happen overnight, and needed the FCC‘s input on modifying the local satellite carriage TV markets for four Denver stations so that La Plata County was now included.
With the support of “hundreds” of residents, La Plata County got its wish, overcoming objections from LIN Television, Hubbard and Hearst.
As RBR + TVBR reported in December, the La Plata County, Colo. Board of Commissioners in late October 2016 urged the FCC to grant a Petition for Special Relief to modify the television market of CBS Corp. O&O KCNC-4 in Denver and Tribune Media‘s FOX affiliated KDVR-31 in order to ensure that local DirecTV and DISH Network viewers were receiving relevant news and information pertaining to Colorado.
In addition, the La Plata County board sought to modify the TV market of TEGNA-owned NBC affiliate KUSA-9 in Denver and The E.W. Scripps Co.‘s ABC affiliate KMGH-7 in Denver, so that viewers could also receive these stations.
A consolidated opposition to the KDVR and KCNC petitions was filed by LIN of New Mexico LLC and LIN of Colorado LLC, now a part of Nexstar Media Group, as LIN was a division of Media General.
A consolidated opposition to the KMGH and KUSA petitions was filed by KOAT parent Hearst Television and KOB owner Hubbard Broadcasting.
As part of the FCC’s review of the matter, both Dish Network and DirecTV filed certifications demonstrating that standard definition carriage is feasible in La Plata County; DirecTV added that HD coverage was feasible in a portion of La Plata County.
Given the feasibility and the overwhelming support of the community, the FCC gave its historic green light — bringing Denver TV to local residents for the first time since the very first TV stations signed on in Albuquerque.
While LIN, Hearst and Hubbard sought the petitions’ dismissal on procedural grounds, supportive comments from local government officials, both of Colorado’s U.S. senators and the Congressman representing La Plata County held sway with the Commission.
“Long before the commencement of this proceeding, government officials were sharing concerns with the Commission about La Plata’s lack of access to in-state programming,” Media Bureau Acting Chief Michelle Carey noted. Indeed, former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski first received notice of these concerns in February 2011.
Carey notes that La Plata County “is one of the counties the Commission has repeatedly and specifically identified as an ‘orphan’ county with insufficient access to in-state programming, and precisely the type of community that Congress intended to assist by broadening the market modification process” through the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014. Until now, TV news, sports, weather and other information focused on New Mexico, rather than on Colorado matters that residents desired.
Furthermore, in-state service was classified as a “local” service by the commission, using this rationale.
It’s now up to Dish and DirecTV to decide when to add the stations to their lineup in La Plata County. For Dish, adding Scripps’ KMGH-7 couldn’t come soon enough: As of 12:01am Friday (3/3) Hearst KOAT-7 went dark as part of the company’s failure to reach a new national retransmission fee agreement with Dish.
RBR + TVBR