Can Gray Get A ‘Yes’ For An Alaskan Channel Change?


Affirmative. Good to go. Sí, signore. 

No matter how you say it, Gray Television simply seeks a “yes” from the FCC so it can change channels for KYES, its MyNetwork TV affiliate serving Alaska’s biggest market.

Getting approval will require the public’s input.

That’s because the Commission on Monday (7/17) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in response to Gray’s petition to change the digital (and virtual) dial position of its KYES-TV in Anchorage, Ala., from Channel 5 to Channel 7.

In May 2011, the FCC iced the acceptance of rulemaking petitions by full-power TV stations requesting channel substitutions. In April 2013, the Commission went a step further by initiating a freeze on the filing of modification applications by full power and Class A television stations that would increase a station’s noise-limited or protected contour beyond its currently licensed or authorized facility.

Gray is now asking the FCC to waive these freezes to allow KYES to relocate its transmitter and utilize upgraded equipment—a move, Gray argues, would improve the station’s over-the-air signal and better serve viewers.

Gray in June 2016 completed its acquisition of KYES from Fireweed Communications. The purchase qualifies under the FCC’s “failing station” waiver, as KYES was not a top-four station by audience share. This is important, as Gray owns NBC affiliate KTUU-2 in Anchorage.

An improved over-the-air signal could lead to higher ratings, thus no longer making KYES a distressed station in the eyes of the Commission.

A Comment Date, and subsequent Reply Comment Date, in what is now “MB Docket No. 17-187”, has been set for 15 days after date of publication in the Federal Register, and 25 days after date of publication in the Federal Register, respectively.

Among the reasons Gray seeks the waiver is the terrain of KYES’s current transmitter, a repurposed analog antenna built by Fireweed; and the lack of a backup generation should there be a power outage.

Gray’s solution is to move KYES’s transmitter to the KTUU tower. Gray explains that the antenna operates on channels 7 through 13, and it has determined that channel 7 is the best available channel able to replicate KYES’s service area.

Gray’s proposal isn’t perfect: The company acknowledges that the move would result in a change in coverage and loss of service to some 2,000 potential viewers. But, Gray proposes to add the KYES signal to the translator network owned by its KTUU, thus “considerably reducing the loss of service.”

The FCC is fine with this, hence the issuance of an NPRM.

“We believe that a waiver of the channel substitution freeze and contour extension freeze would serve the public interest and that Gray’s proposal warrants consideration,” the Commission notes.