Hampton Roads Educational Telecommunications Association wanted to change the city of license of its Norfolk DMA noncom WHRO-TV from Hampton-Norfolk VA to Norfolk VA-Elizabeth City NC, a change which would not have affected the station’s physical plant and contour in any way but which nevertheless drew opposition from to separate entities.
The stated reason for the move was to provide initial television service to the “Elizabeth City Micropolitan Statistical Area.” The city itself is home to 17,188 residents and the entire area is home to 57,267. It is also near the southern extremity of the Norfolk DMA as defined by Nielsen.
HRETA promised it would ascertain and serve the needs of Elizabeth City while continuing to serve Hampton and the Norfolk DMA.
The proposal drew objections from cable operator Charter Communications and noncom television operator University of North Carolina.
The objections noted an FCC preference away from hyphenated communities of license, and said high hurdles exist to granting a new one. They said the there is no natural interdependence whatsoever between Norfolk and Elizabeth City, separated by 45 miles and a state border line.
They also said that the true motivation to the move was to force carriage of WHRO on Charter’s Outer Banks cable systems.
Speaking to that charge, HRETA simply said “Guilty as charged.” It hopes to level the playing field between its station and that of UNC licensed not far from Elizabeth City in Edenton NC.
The FCC agreed with the objectors, saying that the hurdles to acquiring a hyphenated community of license were indeed high on purpose and that HERTA had failed to clear them.
RBR-TVBR observation: You have to admire HRETA’s candor. It could have ridden all day on a high horse from which it proclaimed its undying respect and love for the citizens of Elizabeth City, but instead it refreshingly proclaimed its undying respect and love for as many viewers as it can possibly reach no matter where they are located.
Unfortunatley for HRETA, refreshing candor is not always enough to win the day at the FCC.