Sen. Markey To Comcast: Show Me The Coverage

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As RBR + TVBR reported Nov. 1, Sunbeam Television’s WHDH-7 in Boston is set to lose its NBC affiliation on Jan. 1, 2017, and NBCUniversal is at present working diligently to get what will become “NBC Boston” up and running by New Year’s Day.


That’s when programming from the multicolored Peacock Network will move to Channel 10, on most of the DMA’s cable and DBS providers, and on Channel 8 or 8.2 via an over-the-air antenna.

Channels 8 and 8.2 are the new virtual home for WBTS-LP, the former WTMU-LP 46 — purchased in mid-September for $100,000 by “Station Venture Operations,” which lists NBCUniversal VP/Regulatory Affairs Margaret Tobey as the main contact.

The low-power status of WBTS, compared to the big signal that WHDH enjoys, has raised the concerns of a top member of the Senate Commerce Committee — Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey.

Ed Markey
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)

In a letter sent Monday (12/5) to Comcast, Markey requested detailed information about the company’s plans to ensure that residents in Massachusetts and in parts of New England where WHDH had been the main NBC affiliate can continue to access the network’s free, over-the-air coverage.

At issue is the use of a main transmitter in New Hampshire, with the low-power signal used in Boston to boost NBC’s signal coverage.

 

Markey wants Comcast to clarify which transmitter(s) it will use and which communities, if any, will be unable to access “the same quality of indoor or outdoor antenna coverage in 2017 as they received with WHDH in 2016.”

The senator also asked Comcast how it is making communities aware of the impending transition to a new network-owned station.

“I am concerned that when NBC launches its network-owned station in January, some communities in Massachusetts and throughout New England may lose reliable access to free, over-the-air NBC content,” Markey wrote in the letter to Comcast Chairman/CEO Brian L. Roberts. “Seniors, low-income residents, and anyone who has recently ended their pay-TV subscription may be particularly impacted if there is a reduction in coverage.”

WBTS, formerly WTMU, previously served as the translator for NBCUniversal O&O WNEU-60, the Telemundo affiliate in Boston. WNEU is located in Merrimack, N.H., and it is believed that the Merrimack-based signal will be tied to WBTS.

Talk first surfaced of NBCUniversal acquiring a station in Boston that would serve as an NBC O&O in August 2015.

Sunbeam and NBCUniversal have had a somewhat rocky relationship over the last 15 months.

Markey asked that a reply be received no later than Dec. 12.

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Adam R Jacobson is a veteran radio industry journalist and advertising industry analyst with general, multicultural and Hispanic market expertise. From 1996 to 2006 he served as an editor at Radio & Records.