Last week, I mentioned that Southwest Colorado trying to get television programming from Denver was like peeling an
onion, meaning that for every layer we peeled off in this quest, there's always another one to go.
The saga continues, but progress is being made, even if it's not as direct a path as we'd like. In the last week, I've
been on the phone with many of the key players, and I held a second meeting at the Capitol with some of these
Here's what I've learned. The Nielsen Co., based in New York, is the private business that surveys the television
viewing habits of households. Based on its surveys, it provides broadcasters with the results that shape advertising
decisions. The Federal Communications Commission adopted Nielsen's market areas when regulating who could send their
broadcast signals to what areas, even though this created orphan" or island" rural counties like La Plata and
Montezuma, located along state boundaries, that can be swept into another state's market area.
This is dense stuff, but it leads to how we might eventually be able to get more people access to Denver
I talked at length with two Nielsen executives who assured me they are neutral players in all of this. They report only
what the actual viewing habits are, not what viewers would pick. They sent me data from the last five years showing the
percentage of viewers in our area for Albuquerque versus Denver television. They acknowledged that Albuquerque would be
a higher percentage until more of us could and do watch Denver television.
They told me about a Nebraska county, though, that just flipped" market areas, leaving a South Dakota broadcast area
for Denver's. When I asked how the county did that because it wouldn't be legal" for them to watch Denver channels,the Nielsen executives said they didn't know, repeating that their only function is to tell broadcasters who is
On a quarterly basis, Nielsen randomly contacts a certain small number of households in La Plata and Montezuma
counties. Based on that input of viewing habits, we continue in Albuquerque's market and are unable to move into
Denver's. However, if those contacted by Nielsen were watching Denver stations, our two counties could flip as did
Morrill County, Neb.
At the second meeting at the Capitol, we had great participation and out-of-the-box thinking going on with Marilyn
Hogan of the Colorado Broadcasters Association, one of her board members and Shawn Beqaj of Bresnan Communications, the
local cable company that provides Denver channels.
Beqaj, Bresnan's vice president of public affairs, flew in from New York for the meeting. He welcomes your input. His
phone number is (914) 641-3324. Hogan has received a lot of input, and I promised not to list her number again,provided the broadcasters association keeps helping us.
DISH, one of the satellite companies in our area, also has been very responsive to my calls and is brainstorming ideas
about how more people in our area can view Colorado stations. Satellite television has more flexible rules than cable
but greater technological challenges.
Time and technological advances may help, but in the meantime, the parties mentioned above are committed to continuing
to work with me on your behalf. They understand our frustration with what has been a longstanding problem.
The bottom line is we need to prove to Nielsen through the households surveyed that we have more Denver viewers. There
are five Denver channels that can be watched via the Internet; Nielsen cares only about what you watch, not how you do
We hold more power in this situation than we knew, but it has been buried too deep in the onion to know what steps to
take. It's up to you now about how to use the knowledge.
Ellen Roberts, R-Durango, represents the 59th District in the state House of Representatives. Reach her by phone at the
Capitol, (303) 866-2914; fax (303) 866-2218; home phone 259-1594; or e-mail ellen.roberts.house@