‘Local Power TV’ Advocates Livid Over LPTV Bill’s Passage


On December 15, 2021, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) introduced legislation that provides for a one-year period during which eligible low-power television stations may apply to the FCC for Class A licenses. Eligibility comes down to whether a station serves a media market “with a limited number of television households,” broadcasts a minimum number of hours, and meets “other requirements” spelled out in the legislation.

That’s something the “Local Power” advocacy group LPTV Broadcasters Association would be happy about, no? Absolutely not, it says, and on Thursday morning urged the House of Representatives to shoot down companion legislation, preventing Blunt’s bill from becoming law as the Senate unanimously approved the proposal.

By 12:20pm, those calls went unheeded, with the lower body of Congress passing the bill.



The LPTVBA, headed by Executive Director Peter Saad and founded by “SuperFrank” Copsidas, has been vociferous in its opposition to S.3405, the “Low Power Protection Act.”

While giving LPTVs an opportunity to Class As over a 1-year period is one provision of Blunt’s legislation, the proposed law would also allow a Class A licensee to obtain “certain broadcast rights, including primary status with respect to its allocation of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Typically, the bill’s language spells out, LPTV stations have secondary status and may be displaced from their spectrum in the event the FCC reallocates it to a primary user.

For one year, S.3405 lay dormant. Then, on December 15, 2022, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, favorably reported the bill, with an amendment, to the Senate.

Then, on Wednesday, S.3405 was passed by unanimous consent in Senate.

With few days remaining in the current Congressional session, this put the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, helmed by Pennsylvania Democrat Mike Doyle, in the LPTV Broadcast Association’s sights.

Could a House Member suddenly introduce their companion legislation and do their best to hasten a full floor vote in the House of Representatives? Or, would S.3405 simply get a “yes or no” say-so in the House?

The latter transpired, and as the alarm bells for Copsidas, the House moved forward with passing the “Low Power Protection Act.” It now heads to President Biden for his signature.

Copsidas did not respond to the House’s quick rubberstamp approval of the Senate’s legislation. But, earlier on Thursday, he attacked one key provision of the bill he believes is wholly unfair, and puts one broadcast TV station owner at an unfair advantage.

S.3405′s provisions apply only to those stations that operate in a Nielsen-defined Designated Market Area with not more than 95,000 television households.

That, Copsidas explains, means markets No. 177 and lower are eligible; twenty-seven states would have zero eligible stations under Blunt’s bill, including Florida and Georgia. Furthermore, California would have just 10 of 185 stations eligible for the conversion to Class A status.

LPTV Stations in the U.S. Eligible under the LPPA

An original co-sponsor of S.3405 is Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and it has bipartisan support, with both Senators Ted Cruz and Amy Klobuchar, perhaps polar opposites on the political spectrum, supporting it.

As such, Copsidas placed Blunt and Wyden in his crosshairs while he worked to get House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology Members the facts on S.3405 as the LPTVBA sees it.

Had the House not so quickly acted to approve the Senate bill, the LPTV Broadcasters Association wanted a version of the bill in the House approved that would allow all LPTV stations to convert to Class A status in the one-year window. As the association sees it, Blunt’s legislation is of benefit to one privately held broadcasting company — News-Press & Gazette Co.

“Wyden and Blunt are doing this for NPG,” Copsidas claims.

How so? Copsidas points to NPG’s home of St. Joseph, Mo., comprised of three Missouri counties and one Kansas county, making it Nielsen DMA No. 201. It’s just far enough away from Kansas City where that market’s TV stations don’t clearly come in with a digital TV antenna. But, Copsidas argues that St. Joseph is really an extension of the Kansas City DMA.

There’s another side to the story, too. Blunt has been a U.S. Senator representing Missouri since January 2011, and was previously a House Member for 14 years serving an area of Missouri including Springfield. Before that, Blunt was Missouri’s Secretary of State, from 1985-1993. Among Blunt’s Top 100 donors between 2017 and 2022, according to OpenSecrets.org, are iHeartMedia (No. 20, with one $1,000 donation). Neither the News-Press & Gazette Co. nor the Bradley family, which owns it, were listed as donors.

NPG attracted national attention in 2019 with its attempt to acquire KQTV-2 in St. Joseph, the local ABC affiliate. In April of that year, Heartland Media agreed to sell “KQ2” to NPG for $13,650,000. Heartland obtained KQTV in 2016 in a multimarket transaction with Nexstar Media Group. And, it continues to own KQ2 today as it aborted the NPG sale in October 2019.

Had the FCC given its regulatory approval to the deal, KQTV would have been paired with FOX affiliated KNPN-LD 26, NBC affiliated KNPG-LD 21, and CBS affiliated KCJO-LD 30 — as well as “St. Joseph’s CW 6,” which is housed on the LD-2 channel associated with KNPG; it also brings St. Joseph the Spanish-language network Telemundo thanks to its presence on KNPG’s LD-3 signal. If that’s not enough, NPG owns the daily News-Press, with roots dating to 1845.

Under S.3405, NPG’s LPTVs are eligible for Class C conversion status. Kansas City stations to the south would not, and that’s what is vexing to the LPTVBA, which calls Blunt’s bill “private legislation.”

Bill co-sponsor Wyden, meanwhile, resides in a state where four stations would be eligible for the Class A conversion — at least as of today. While translator TV stations are ineligible, changing one’s status to a LPTV “is as easy as sending an e-mail to Mark Columbo” at the FCC, Copsidas says, adding, “Ideally this whole thing should go down the tubes.”

Given the limited time left on the Congressional legislative calendar, that was Copsidas’ hope until 12:25pm Eastern. “Anything can happen in Washington,” he said.

Indeed, it did. And, that pleases the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which is in direct opposition with the LPTV Broadcasters Association on the legislation.

In a statement, NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt applauded the passage of the Low Power Protection Act, which the NAB believes “will enable innovation and local investment for the low power television stations that serve the millions of Americans living in small and rural markets.” LeGeyt added, “These broadcast stations play a critical role in keeping their viewers informed with community-centered journalism, public affairs programming and lifeline information during times of emergency. We thank Sens. Blunt and Wyden for their bipartisan leadership on this bill, which ensures TV broadcasters can better serve their local communities.”

But, given Copsidas’ side of the story, did Congress do just that?

“While the LPTV Broadcasters Association is completely supportive of a new Class A window, this legislation fell far short of making Class A status available for those who really need it,” Copsidas tells RBR+TVBR. “The legislation disrespects all the work that LPTV stations do with local journalism, religious, minority, and culturally diverse programming, veterans’ owned, and small business. This ‘private legislation’ which benefited one station group in particular was railroaded through the process without any consideration of the needs of the actual industry. This should motivate LPTV stations to develop relationships with their Senators and Congressmen. It does make a difference.”