FCC: Covid-19 Does Not Trump Market Mod Requirements

The FCC has signaled that not even the COVID-19 pandemic can justify a market modification petition without the requisite evidence. 

That came in its denial of a request by the Montezuma County, Colo., Board of Commissioners, that DISH be allowed to deliver KUSA TV Denver to Montezuma County, Colo., which is currently assigned to the Albuquerque, N.M. market, an out-of-state DMA that makes Montezuma an orphan county deprived of local news and sports on its satellite carrier. 

Related: Gray TV Draws Crowd to FCC Satellite Petition 

The board told the FCC that its residents had been unable to get "important news from their state capitol, and have been unable to receive any direct information from Colorado’s Governor “regarding statewide and citizen directives concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

But the FCC said that because the board's petition for market modification lacks the necessary evidence, it must reject it without prejudice, which means it can be refiled with that additional information and the FCC will consider it then.  

"The Commission’s rules direct that petitions failing to make a complete evidentiary showing “shall be dismissed without prejudice,” the Media Bureau said. "We find that the evidence submitted by Montezuma does not adhere to the evidentiary standards established in the Commission’s rules. Nor does the County seek any necessary waivers or demonstrate that it made a good faith effort to obtain the missing evidence. Montezuma must address these deficiencies in order for the Commission to fully conduct its analysis." 

But what about the COVID-19 element. The FCC has loosened some rules in the wake of the pandemic, though mostly in efforts to speed broadband deployment, telemedicine and distance learning.  

"While we recognize the importance of consumers receiving local broadcast news from their state, particularly in light of the COVID-19 health crisis, even these unusual circumstances do not justify an action that is contrary to Commission directives, especially in light of the fact that the effects of granting this Petition will extend well beyond this crisis." 

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.