The LPTV community is really getting behind “must-carry”, and Luis Echarte, in charge of TV Azteca, recently asked all Azteca America Affiliates to get behind his recent FCC petition filing (read below). FCC Chairman Martin wants and likes localism, so must-carry for challenged Class A Spanish-language stations nationwide will give him this in spades. Remember, the US is the only major democracy in the west that has two classes of TV stations. Italy, Mexico, Germany, etc., all consider any level of power a full power status TV facility.
The petition has been submitted by not just Hispanic facilities. Virtually all formats of Class “A”s have survival and potential growth on the line. It will also stimulate the TV business—allowing bigger coverage Class A stations to hire more people, improve their facilities and eventually attract more advertising.
Of course, it will also stimulate the broker biz. These stations, effectively at full power via must carry on local cable and satellite SHIVA carriage will be much more profitable and desirable for investment & recapitalization. If each facility added just three jobs to their average of three full time staffers, we would add about 1,600 new TV jobs.
We asked Bob Heymann, a Director of Media Services Group, what he thought: “There are two things that come into play here. One is if Class A’s get must-carry rights, then they can force themselves onto the cable systems. But perhaps the greater question is whether the cable companies will have to match the limited geographic over-the-air coverage of the Class A stations by segmenting the distribution, or whether they will have to or choose to carry them throughout the entire DMA. If the latter, there will be no difference between a LPTV and a full-power station. Then that station’s inherent value will increase significantly.”
He added that dial position will also be a factor. Will it be on Channels 1-20 or Channel 9000? So there will be some give and take.
If they do get full market coverage and therefore increase in value tremendously, how might that change the business Heymann is in? “From my standpoint because the inherent stick values will rise significantly, my commission will also increase significantly.”
Heymann agrees as well that an LPTV now covering the entire market via cable will also stimulate local job growth. “Clearly, it will become a viable business entity competing for advertising and viewing just like the full-power stations. So as a result, they will expand their operations. They will hire people—sales, programming, operations—in order to serve the public they are now reaching.”
Is this fair to the Belos and Tribunes, which have paid a huge price for their stations? Said Heymann: “That’s the nature of broadcast regulation in the United States of America—look at The Telcom Reform Act of 1996. With the stroke of a pen, broadcasters were able to cluster stations and naked sticks increased in value X number of times. People made a lot of money selling their stations.”
Read the Azteca Petition and letter to affiliates, below.
RBR/TVBR observation: This would be good timing for the LPTVs, since the cable companies and satellite services will get a huge shot in the arm from the forced DTV transition next year. Many folks are just going to rely on the set top box rather then go out and set up an antenna. The cable industry might want to be careful not to burn through goodwill and political capital in trying to stop this. They want to keep nailing down big annual rate increases to service their hefty debt load. We are talking about 555 TV stations over 214 DMAs. We think this just may pass and become a FCC rule, sooner rather than later. As they say, stay tuned…!
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Attached please find an update on our efforts regarding the "must carry" initiative. As you will notice we have made a lot of progress and now we ask for your support with our upcoming lobbying efforts.
We thank you in advance.
Luis J. Echarte
M E M O R A N D U M
To: Azteca America Affiliates
From: Luis J. Echarte
Cc: Adrian Steckel
Re: Must Carry for Low Power TV
Date: September 5, 2008
The purpose of this memorandum is to share our progress to improve Azteca America’s ability to serve our communities. For years, Adrian Steckel and I have been working to support the efforts of our affiliates to end the second class status for LPTV stations. We believe that Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has the authority to grant Class A Stations “full power status” in recognition of our high volume of local content, and with full power status comes “must carry” rights. “Must carry” will allow our stations to communicate important community messages to a wider audience and give them a more level playing field with the growing media conglomerates. It is important to note that our proposal also includes a requirement that the FCC “open the window” for non-Class A stations to apply to earn that designation.
Through our Washington, DC team’s efforts, and with assistance from Senator Menendez (D-NJ), Mayela Rosales was invited to testify before the FCC hearing in New York on July 29. (A copy of her testimony is attached.)
Essentially, she told the Commissioners and staff that if the Commission recognizes that Class A LPTV deserve full-power status, they will help solve three big problems in American media today – too little local content, too much media concentration and too few profitable opportunities for minority media investments.
Following up on Mayela’s testimony, one of the senior officials of the FCC, called Mayela to thank her for her testimony and encouraging her – and us – to continue to raise these issues. We are doing exactly that and we need your help.
Next week, Nathalie Rayes will join Randy Nonberg and other LPTV leaders in meetings in Washington at the FCC and on Capitol Hill. We’ve been told that the chairman of the FCC supports our position but needs at least two more votes. We are seeking to meet with all five Commissioners to press them on both the merits and the equity of our case. If you’re like me, you’ve grown a little weary of talk. It is time for them to act.
Here’s how you can help reinforce the efforts of the LPTV coalition: Sign the attached petition so that we can let everyone in Washington know that the support for this proposal enjoys enthusiastic and widespread support.
Please send the completed petition to our Washington DC representatives who will present all
the petitions in one packet to the FCC:
1300 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Cc: Michael Boland (w/o enc.)
Petition to the Federal Communications Commission regarding status of certain low power TV stations
WHEREAS, television programming increasingly is concentrated and controlled by a decreasing number of media conglomerates,
WHEREAS media concentration has reduced the number of independent voices and the opportunity for those voices to be heard,
WHEREAS, insufficient local programming is available to television viewers,
WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission established low power television stations in the 1980s to provide a new programming resource for unique urban, suburban and rural communities,
WHEREAS, many of today’s low power television stations have matured into substantial businesses providing some of the most creative and informative local content available on television,
WHEREAS, the broadcast signal power limitations originally imposed by Federal Communications Commission on low power television stations made sense in the analog broadcast era but not in today’s digital era,
WHEREAS, the Federal Communications Commission has not provided any relief for low power television that will permit them to function effectively and continue to fulfill their mission in the digital transition, the result of which will be that their audiences will become disenfranchised, particularly those receiving foreign-language programming,
WHEREAS, among the most vulnerable low power stations are those providing Spanish-language local content, including educational and emergency preparedness programming, for America’s fast growing Hispanic communities in every region of the country,
WHEREAS, many low power stations now have the attributes of and fulfill the requirements and functions of full power stations and, therefore, they should be recognized as such and ought to be entitled to the same “must carry status” as full power stations, which, in turn, will enable these stations to secure additional financing and which will foster even more local programming and less media concentration;
THEREFORE we request the Federal Communications Commission to move expeditiously a) to recognize all Class A low power television stations as having full power status including must carry rights and b) to open the window for new applications for Class A status for those low power television stations with significant local programming.
Station DMA (designated market area):________________________
Please send the completed petition to our Washington DC representatives who will present all the petitions in one packet to the FCC:
1300 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20036