WASHINGTON – Colorado Rep. Scott Tipton and state Attorney General Phil Weiser put pressure on the Federal Communications Commission this week to allow Denver-based TV signals to reach more homes in La Plata and Montezuma counties.
Despite being in Colorado, La Plata and Montezuma counties receive TV programming from nearby Albuquerque. Residents of these “orphan counties” have pushed to receive Denver-based programming for years.
The FCC approved a petition in March 2017 allowing La Plata County to begin receiving Denver stations. But the process has stalled since Albuquerque broadcast stations, unwilling to lose the two Colorado counties, filed a letter of review with the FCC.
On March 5, Tipton sent a letter to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to “urge the FCC to expedite the decision on the Albuquerque broadcast stations’ application for review.”
Speaking with The Durango Herald on Thursday, Tipton said he has yet to receive a response from the FCC or Pai.
Tipton said it has been “an ongoing issue in terms of being able to get the weather, the news, our sports channels” for La Plata and Montezuma counties. He detailed the lack of relevant information the two counties receive from their New Mexico programing.
“We don’t know what’s going on in our state Legislature. When we had the 416 Fire, Albuquerque wasn’t really covering that, and if you had a relative that was maybe in Denver, they weren’t getting the news on it.”
Tipton acknowledged the “resistance out of the FCC to be able to actually address it” and said the purpose of his letter was “to be able to get them to move forward on making a decision.”
Tipton underscored the flexibility the current plan would provide residents of both counties. “It’s not that you would never receive New Mexico TV again, but you would have the option of watching it or Denver TV,” he said.
“It’s a quirk of the system that southwestern Colorado has been put in this box,” Weiser said.
Weiser discussed the “orphan counties” issue with Chairman Pai this week during his first official trip to Washington, D.C., since taking office in January.
He pressed Pai to understand the FCC’s delay in resolving the Albuquerque stations’ petition for review.
“I left the meeting feeling very encouraged,” Weiser said Wednesday in an interview with the Herald. “I know the substance of this issue and we’re on the right side of it. I worked hard to bring a sense of urgency to it.”
La Plata County commissioners have also continued to push for Denver-based programing, sending a letter on Feb. 26 calling for the FCC to take immediate action to rule in favor of the March 2017 decision.
The FCC could not be reached for comment.
Tipton said he will continue to advocate for “good common sense, because if you live in Colorado, you ought to be able to access Colorado TV.”
Liz Weber is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald.