As RBR + TVBR reported in December 2016, the La Plata County, Colo. Board of Commissioners two months earlier urged the FCC to grant a Petition for Special Relief to modify the television market of CBS Corp. O&O KCNC-4 in Denver and Tribune Media‘s FOX affiliated KDVR-31 in order to ensure that local DirecTV and DISH Network viewers were receiving relevant news and information pertaining to Colorado.
In addition, the La Plata County board sought to modify the TV market of TEGNA-owned NBC affiliate KUSA-9 in Denver and The E.W. Scripps Co.‘s ABC affiliate KMGH-7 in Denver, so that viewers could also receive these stations.
With the support of “hundreds” of residents, La Plata County got its wish, overcoming objections from LIN Television, Hubbard and Hearst, with the FCC’s approval of a market modification that signaled the delivery for the first time of Denver DMA stations to an area that historically received TV signals over local translators and repeaters of Albuquerque TV stations.
The FCC’s decision was challenged. On Thursday, that decision was affirmed by the Commission.
At the same time, it was found that the Media Bureau ” erred both in granting [a] waiver and in the manner in which it weighed some of the statutory market modification factors.”
Section 338(l) permits the Commission to add or exclude communities from a station’s local television market to better reflect market realities and to promote access to local programming from broadcasters located in their state.
“Although the historic carriage factor and the viewing pattern factor weigh against granting a market modification in this instance, we find that the combination of the local service factor, the other local stations factor and, particularly, the access to in-state stations factor outweigh those two factors in this case,” the FCC ruled. “We also believe that granting the Petition best serves Congress’ purpose of providing in-state programming to orphan counties. Accordingly, after examining all the relevant evidence and considering the statutory factors in their proper context, we find that a significant nexus exists between the Denver Stations and La Plata County and that the interests of localism are advanced by grant of the requested market modifications.”
For DirecTV and DISH, the race is on to get the Denver stations on the channel lineup for La Plata County, Colo., subscribers within 30 days of June 13.
The affirmation of the Bureau’s decision is a setback for Hubbard Broadcasting‘s NBC-affiliated KOB-4, Nexstar Media Group, and Hearst‘s ABC-affiliated KOAT-7, which fought the change along with DISH and DirecTV.
As Denver is a larger market than Albuquerque this could result in tougher retransmission fee negotiations between the two DBS providers and station owners.