The Federal Communications Commission granted a petition on Wednesday that is expected to bring Denver-based television access to La Plata County as early as this summer.
The county was the first in the country to request a market modification from the FCC, which allows satellite providers to offer subscribers access to in-state television programming.
La Plata County is an orphan county, meaning that residents do not receive television programming in-state, but from Albuquerque.
Wednesday’s announcement is another step in a 10-year effort to give La Plata County residents access to Colorado news, weather and sports on television. The two satellite providers serving the county are now authorized to partner with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in Denver.
“The FCC’s decision is a huge victory for residents of La Plata County who want to receive television broadcasts relevant to our community,” Commissioner Julie Westendorff said in a news release. “We are thrilled to no longer be an ‘orphan county’ with respect to our television market.”
Commissioner Gwen Lachelt was in Washington on Wednesday on county business and received the news in person.
“This has been a discussion for about as long as I’ve lived in Durango, which is 36 years this year,” Lachelt said. “Today (Wednesday), I was asked to receive an order at the FCC at noon, and they granted our request. Hundreds of people wrote letters to the FCC knowing it was important. We’ve had local teachers saying their kids need to understand who their governor is. It’s a huge achievement a long time coming, and we wouldn’t be here without the efforts of Sen. (Michael) Bennet and Sen. (Cory) Gardner.”
The next steps are in the hands of the satellite providers and networks, but Lachelt said agreements can be worked out in as few as 120 days.
At the urging of congressional delegation, the FCC made it possible last year for counties to directly petition the federal agency for television access. Commissioners submitted the petition in October.
Bennet, Gardner and Rep. Scott Tipton praised the FCC action in a news release.
“Since my time in the House of Representatives, I have worked with members of both parties and local officials to bring Colorado TV to the southwest and resolve the issue,” Gardner said. “Today’s announcement is the result of a bipartisan, locally driven effort, and it’s welcome news for many people in Colorado who have waited too long for access to the Denver broadcast market.”