Besides a couple of wars, Wall Street's meltdown, rising unemployment and declining home prices, Colorado's congressional delegation now can address a problem that has been afflicting Southwest Colorado for years - the inability of local television viewers at times to receive Denver broadcasts.
And lest there be any confusion as to what is at stake here, let us be clear: Our lawmakers should at least arrange it so that the Broncos' games are not blacked out. That, after all, is what really gets folks riled up.
Television is regulated at the federal level, which means appeals to state government are pointless. Moreover, the Federal Communications Commission delegates considerable control to a private company, Nielsen Media Research, which divvies up the country into market areas for advertising purposes.
Each region - called a "designated market area" or DMA - defines the number of households its stations' broadcast commercials will reach. That affects the desirability of the broadcaster's airtime and the price of its ads; the larger the market, the more a station can charge. An advertiser would reach a lot more Colorado homes with a spot on a Denver station than on one broadcasting only from Grand Junction.
But that Denver ad may not reach anyone in Southwest Colorado. In its wisdom, Nielsen has assigned this area to the Albuquerque market area. That means that not only do residents here receive New Mexico television stations, but those broadcasters have the right to block out stations from other markets.
This has little meaning if what is at issue is a rerun of "Seinfeld" or a question as to whether "ER" is interrupted by commercials from an Albuquerque business instead of those touting one in Denver. Residents of Southwest Colorado probably are more likely to shop in New Mexico than along the Front Range, but in any case should be doing neither. Shopping with local merchants supports our local communities.
And protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, where we get our television from really does not affect state politics or legislative issues. Viewers who actually base ballot decisions on the three minutes of state government information that the 10 p.m. news might contain cannot in all honesty consider themselves informed voters.
That is what their local newspaper is for. The Herald routinely runs stories from its Denver correspondent and The Associated Press about the actions of the governor, the Legislature and state agencies, as well as other news from the state capital. Plus, it carries regular columns from state Rep. Ellen Roberts and state Sen. Jim Isgar. That is far more than any Denver evening news broadcast could provide, and it is tailored to the concerns of Southwest Colorado.
No, the television flap is about the Broncos. In a state where the color of sunsets is considered divine approval of its football team, blacking out a Broncos game is serious business.
But that also suggests a possible out. Officials have tried to fix this, but Nielsen Media Research has been unyielding, And the Albuquerque stations have little incentive to give away part of their market area.
A Broncos-only exception, however, would not be asking for much. It is not an everyday occurrence, and fans angered by missing their game are probably not a good target audience for advertisers anyway. A single exception would allow our congressional delegation to offer a compromise, and viewers truly concerned about state government would still have their local newspaper - and ads for businesses a lot closer than Albuquerque.