NBC affiliate abandons the North Pole


Hearst-Argyle’s WPTZ-DT brings NBC programming to the Burlington VT-Plattsburgh NY DMA, but that fact is not made obvious by its city of license. In fact, its city of license brings to mind a location far from any DMA on the Nielsen roster of markets.

The station is officially licensed to North Pole NY. Perhaps designating that particular village as a city of license seemed like a good idea at one time, but the licensee has now jumped through the regulatory hoops necessary to procure a city of license change, and a change to the Post-Transition Table of DTV Allotments.

One of the hurdles Hearst had to clear was the abandonment of a community that had no other broadcast television service, while its target COL already has one television station. A large part of the argument underpinning the justification for the move was the definition of a community.

The rules state that licenses must be attached to a community, so proving that North Pole really isn’t one was central to Hearst’s case.

It noted that it was tiny to being with, and is now down to just four residences and a local attraction known as “Santa’s Workshop.” It has a local post office which is only open near the end of the year and fields letters to Santa.

North Pole is not an incorporated community, and was not included in either the 1990 or 2000 census report.
Hearst also noted that the main studio used by WPTZ has been located in Plattsburgh going back to 1954.

The FCC agreed and is allowing the change. It agreed that North Pole lacks the attributes of a normal community, is basically a tourist attraction, and also notes that the change does not involve moving the station’s transmitter, so there will be no loss of service to anybody currently receiving the station.

RBR-TVBR observation: This case points out the importance of localism to broadcasters. It may have made sense at one time to identify with a special feature of the local market, but in view of the competitive environment that has existed since the massive invasion of national programming that has accompanied the advent of cable and satellite service, Hearst is doing the right thing – making sure it is emphasizing the serious nature of its local roots.