Phil Weiser, attorney general-elect for Colorado, said he will join La Plata County in its fight to allow DISH and DirecTV to add four major Denver television stations to the programming offerings in Southwest Colorado.
In an interview Wednesday, Weiser said he stands in support of La Plata County’s petition to the Federal Communications Commission to allow satellite carriers to transmit Denver stations to county residents. Montezuma and La Plata counties, which are both “orphan counties,” meaning they receive New Mexico broadcasting, have been fighting for at least two decades to receive Colorado programming.
Many residents say they would prefer to receive news and advertisements from Colorado. Residents grow especially upset during elections when they are bombarded by commercials for issues and candidates in New Mexico and miss out on information being shared across Colorado. The furor grows even louder during the football season, when inevitably, at least once a year, Albuquerque stations decide to show alternative programming instead of a Denver Broncos game.
The FCC is moving with “uncertain urgency” in resolving the matter, Weiser said Wednesday. After taking office Jan. 8, Weiser said he plans to work with the FCC to make a case for why Montezuma and La Plata counties should receive Colorado television signals and help the FCC with any legal issues that may arise, saying he is experienced in telecommunications law.
The FCC declined to comment for this story, saying it is prohibited from speaking about matters before the commission.
The attorney general for Colorado is the chief legal officer for the state, defending the legal interests of the people of Colorado. The Attorney General’s Office has the power to represent the state in state and federal courts and works as an advocate for the public in areas such as utility regulation and consumer protection, among other things, according to the National Association of Attorney Generals.
La Plata County commissioners filed a petition with the FCC in 2016 in an effort to get Colorado broadcasting in Southwest Colorado. The FCC approved the petition in 2017, but Albuquerque filed a petition in opposition, citing a number of statutory requirements that disqualify the county from a market change. The appeal is pending with the FCC.
Weiser wrote a column scheduled to run Saturday in The Durango Herald announcing his support for La Plata County’s petition with the FCC.
“As our next attorney general, I will join in support of the La Plata County commission’s case and bring the full weight of the AG’s office behind the county’s request,” he wrote.
Durango Government Television circumvented market forces when it started broadcasting Denver’s 9News on the public station over the airwaves for eight hours each day during the week. That programming is available for free over the airwaves, meaning it can be accessed with a digital antenna.
But Weiser said he’s committed to bringing that programming to satellite users.
“What I continue to hear from people in La Plata County is that they are concerned about a lack of access to programming that relates to Colorado,” Weiser said. “I understand why the Albuquerque stations want to protect their position, but that desire doesn’t entitle them to a privileged position.”