La Plata and Montezuma county residents are a step closer to receiving Denver television stations, at least if they receive their signal through a satellite provider.
The Federal Communications Commission issued a memorandum opinion and order Thursday upholding a 2017 ruling that largely grants La Plata County’s petition to receive satellite broadcasts of Denver stations KDVR-TV, the Fox affiliate; KCNC-TV, the CBS affiliate; KMGH-TV, the ABC affiliate; and KUSA-TV, the NBC affiliate.
“This has been an issue for 30 years, so of course, we’re ecstatic that we’re able to bring statewide Denver TV to our community and to connect this corner of the state to the rest of the state,” said La Plata County Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.
Lachelt said receiving Denver stations is important to inform residents about ballot issues, statewide candidates and other political issues that affect their lives.
“I can’t tell you how many young people think the governor of New Mexico is their governor because that’s the television we receive,” she said.
Lachelt said legislation by U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and former U.S. Sen. Mark Udall was crucial in helping the county lose its “orphan” television market status, given to areas that are limited to out-of-state stations by default.
Bennet, in a joint news release with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and U.S. Rep. Scot Tipton, R-Cortez, said, “Whether it’s a severe weather alert or catching a Broncos game, it’s common sense that people living in Colorado should have access to content from their own state. For nearly 10 years, we have worked with Montezuma and La Plata counties, Denver broadcasters and satellite providers to bring Denver broadcasts to the Four Corners region, and today’s decision by the FCC puts us one step closer to a resolution.”
Megan Graham, spokeswoman for La Plata County, cautioned that the decision doesn’t mean satellite customers will be able to turn on their televisions tomorrow for 24/7 coverage from Denver stations.
Instead, the order directs satellite providers and Denver stations to work out technical details of bringing Denver TV to areas as their main local stations.
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said that as a communication lawyer, he had taken a special interest in La Plata and Montezuma counties’ orphan status.
“In visiting areas of Colorado, this came up as a particular concern for Southwest Colorado that for too long has been unable to receive television coverage of the state’s relevant cultural, political, social and, yes, sports issues,” Weiser said.
In a visit to Washington in March, Weiser said he made a point of visiting the FCC to press for action on La Plata County’s petition to receive Denver TV.
Albuquerque television stations had asked for a review of the county’s petition to receive Denver TV, but Thursday’s order largely supports granting La Plata and Montezuma county residents access to Denver broadcast stations through satellite providers.
Graham noted the order applies only to satellite providers and does not affect traditional cable TV providers.
Tipton called the news a positive step and added, “I applaud the FCC’s decision to expedite the process of bringing Colorado TV to residents in Southwest Colorado. It is well past time that this issue be resolved. I look forward to continued engagement with all parties involved in this issue until all Coloradans have the ability to watch their local news, weather and sports.”
Gardner said he has worked to bring Denver TV to Southwest Colorado throughout his tenure in the U.S. House.
“For too long, many Coloradans living in the Four Corners region have not been able to get Colorado news, weather, sports and critical emergency information, and it’s about time we fix this once and for all,” Gardner said in a joint news release issued by the congressional delegation. “Today’s announcement is positive, but there is more work to be done, and I will continue to work with the interested stakeholders to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”
La Plata County was the first county in the United States to submit a market modification petition.
In a news release on the FCC action, Karen Modlin, a spokeswoman for DISH Network, called it great news for La Plata County satellite customers. Modlin added the advocacy of Tipton, Bennet, Gardner and Weiser was key in bringing about Thursday’s FCC decision.
Weiser said he will watch the next steps in the process and will try to ensure Denver television stations and satellite providers “finalize agreements to make this a reality.”
“I am going to stay on this,” Weiser said. “I know it is an issue of great importance to residents of La Plata and Montezuma counties.”