The inner limits of author William Faulkner’s famous quote that “even waiting will end ... if you can just wait long enough,” are truly being tested by La Plata County residents who for decades have waited for access to Denver TV.
A significant ruling last winter from the Federal Communications Commission said satellite providers could broadcast Denver stations in Southwest Colorado, but a pending appeal from Albuquerque stations that want to block that access has some hesitant to negotiate before the matter is settled.
“It’s a patience game, for sure,” said Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County.
For years, La Plata County residents have demanded in-state television programming from Denver, desiring more relevant access to Colorado news, weather and sports.
La Plata County has historically received programming from Albuquerque, earning it the moniker “orphan county,” a term for a community that receives television programming from a location out of state.
In March, the FCC granted a petition submitted by La Plata County Commissioners that effectively allowed satellite providers, in this case Direct TV and DISH Network, to partner with ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox affiliates in Denver.
However, several Albuquerque television stations petitioned in opposition of the decision in an effort to block Denver stations of the same network from reaching La Plata County viewers.
KOAT-TV, an ABC affiliate, and NBC affiliate KOB-TV, both of Albuquerque, told the FCC they oppose the county’s request for those respective Denver channels. They asserted that four statutory factors disqualify La Plata County from a market modification, including that the county has not historically carried Denver stations, Denver lacks geographic proximity, Denver stations lack “any meaningful audience” in the county and the county receives “ample technical coverage and local programming” from Albuquerque stations.
The Albuquerque stations’ petition is unresolved. Representatives with the FCC did not immediately return requests seeking comment on Wednesday.
Despite the petition, the FCC’s decision currently still stands, which means satellite providers and Denver stations are still free to provide La Plata County residents access to Denver TV.
The looming appeal seems to have satellite providers and broadcast stations wary to engage in negotiations before a final decision is made.
“DISH wants to help increase access to Colorado TV stations for its customers in La Plata County,” DISH spokesman John Hall said in an emailed response to The Durango Herald. “The FCC’s initial grant of approval for satellite carriers to provide certain Denver TV stations to La Plata County is undergoing a legal challenge from broadcasters in New Mexico, and currently there is no timeline for the process to be complete.”
Representatives with Direct TV, as well as ABC, NBC and CBS, did not respond to requests for comment. A spokeswoman with Fox declined to comment for this story.
“It’s common sense that Coloradans should have access to Colorado news, especially during times of emergency,” said Laurie Cipriano, press secretary for Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “Now that the FCC has ruled in La Plata County’s favor on their petition, we should move forward in order to bring Denver television to La Plata County as soon as possible.”
For La Plata County residents who want their own state’s news, weather and sports, it seems like no serious headway will be made until the FCC makes its decision on the Albuquerque stations’ appeal.
Graham said the county regularly fields questions from residents on when Denver programming is coming to Southwest Colorado. But the answer, for now, is unsatisfying.
“We continue to be very involved in advocating for access to Denver TV both at the FCC level and encouraging providers to reach an agreement on broadcasting,” Graham said. “But that’s not something La Plata County has a (direct) role in.”