Mountain Broadcasting Corporation owns and operates WMBC-TV in Newton NJ. It just asked the FCC to affirm its right to MVPD carriage throughout the New York City DMA, of which it is a part. The request, which was unopposed, was granted in part and denied in part – but mostly granted.
The FCC took the occasion to supply a reminder of the criteria it considers when determining whether a given station has must-carry rights:
(I) whether the station, or other stations located in the same area, have been historically carried on the cable system or systems within such community;
(II) whether the television station provides coverage or other local service to such community;
(III) whether any other television station that is eligible to be carried by a cable system in such community in fulfillment of the requirements of this section provides news coverage of issues of concern to such community or provides carriage or coverage of sporting and other events of interest to the community;
(IV) evidence of viewing patterns in cable and noncable households within the areas served by the cable system or systems in such community
An evidentiary showing is expected to include items such as:
(1) A map or maps illustrating the relevant community locations and geographic features, station transmitter sites, cable system headend locations, terrain features that would affect station reception, mileage between the community and the television station transmitter site, transportation routes and any other vidence contributing to the scope of th market.
(2) Grade B contour maps delineating the station’s technical service area9 and showing the location of the cable system headends and communities in relation to the service areas.
(3) Available data on shopping and labor patterns in the local Market.
(4) Television station programming information derived from station logs or the local edition of the television guide.
(5) Cable system channel line-up cards or other exhibits establishing historic carriage, such as television guide listings.
(6) Published audience data for the relevant station showing its average all day audience (i.e., the reported audience averaged over Sunday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-1 a.m., or an equivalent time period) for both cable and noncable households or other specific audience indicia, such as station advertising and sales data or viewer contribution records.
Addressing the first statutory area, MBC noted that it is a specialty station airing religious and foreign language programming over more than a third of its weekly schedule; it provided evidence of its carriage record on numerous systems as it sought to make its carriage ubiquitous in the DMA.
To meet the second prong, it noted a grant of its application to move the station’s transmitter to Clifton NJ, providing better market coverage, not to mention a DTS system operating with “an addition transmitter located atop the Empre State Building…”
MBC also noted that it programs original news programming aimed at local communities within the DMA.
The FCC said the third consideration was not a factor in this case.
In discussing the fourth, MBC was light on data since it is not a Nielsen subscriber. FCC looked into it and found limited ratings.
MBC said, however, that its carriage is in the public interest, particularly since it supplies programming in a number of Asian languages.
MBC’s goal was to be able to enforce carriage rights in 178 DMA communities. In the final analysis, the FCC granted it access to 174 of them.