Over LPTV Association’s Protests, Biden Signs Bill Into Law

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The nation’s foremost advocacy group in Washington for broadcast media was pleased. “Local Power” advocacy group LPTV Broadcasters Association could not be more perturbed.


President Biden has signed the “Low Power Protection Act” into law, a move that the group founded by entrepreneur “SuperFrank” Copsidas pleaded the House of Representatives to prevent.

 

As the NAB sees it, the Act provides eligible low power television stations “a long-overdue opportunity to obtain interference protections.”

NAB CEO Curtis LeGeyt hailed Biden for signing “important, bipartisan legislation” designed to allow local broadcasters the opportunity to better serve their viewers by hiring more journalists, investing in new equipment and transitioning to the ATSC 3.0 standard.

The Act’s passage in Congress and signing by Biden is thanks to Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). On December 15, 2021, Blunt 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.

For one year, S.3405 lay dormant. Then, with less than a month left in the 117th Congress, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who chairs the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, favorably reported the bill, with an amendment, to the Senate.

On Wednesday, December 18, S.3405 was passed by unanimous consent by the Upper Body of Congress.

Suddenly, the House had a bill to consider. And, it gave the Senate rubber-stamp approval, just hours after Copsidas started making calls in a desperate attempt to prevent such a House OK.

What’s the LPTV Broadcasters Association’s biggest issue? Copsidas told RBR+TVBR that there is one key provision of the bill he believes is wholly unfair, and puts one broadcast TV station owner at an unfair advantage.

The Act’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

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 claimed.

How so? Copsidas pointed 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 argued that St. Joseph is really an extension of the Kansas City DMA.

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 the ActNPG’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 said.

“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 concluded. “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.”