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FCC Majority Votes to Approve La Plata Market Mod

The FCC commissioners signaled Wednesday (June 12) that they have voted in favor of a proposal to modify the satellite markets of KDVR-TV, KCNC-TV, KMGH-TV, and KUSA-TV, all Denver, to include a so-called orphan county in Colorado that had been receiving out-of-state TV station signals from Dish and DirecTV due to the way the Nielsen market was drawn up.

An item had been on circulation (for a vote by the other commissioners) resolving objections to the FCC's earlier grant of that modification.

Related: Gray TV Draws Crowd to Satellite Market Mod Petition

That "signal" came after Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) had said at an FCC oversight hearing in the Senate Commerce Committee that the FCC needed to fix that orphan county issue in southwest Colorado "once and for all." The FCC had previously supported the request, but had to address some objections in a follow-up item. 

He said that it was important that the La Plata was welcomed into the Colorado news and programming ambit. Gardner said his constituents, who are connected to the state in every other way, should be connected through their local TV stations as well.

The commissioners appeared to agree. Pai said he had already voted for the modification and was waiting for the other votes to come in. Gardner went down the line and commissioners Michael O'Rielly, Brendan Carr and Jessica Rosenworcel all said they, too, had voted for it. But even with a majority, an item is not considered voted until all commissioners have weighed in, or a deadline for voting has been reached and it is deemed voted (which is not yet the case).

That left only Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. "Unfortunately then it sounds like I need to vote as expeditiously as possible, senator," he said, as the panel and audience chuckled.  A Starks aid said he plans to vote it this week. Starks is the newest commissioner and was not around for the initial vote so, likely, he was just doing his due diligence on an item that was circulated less than two weeks ago.

The last reauthorization of the STELAR law, which renewed the satellite distant-signal license, for the first time extended cable market modifications to satellite, and said the FCC could grant requests from public officials to modify satellite markets.

La Plata County then filed for the modifications. Albuquerque stations owned by LIN and Hearst pushed back, saying there were other ways—like only importing local news and public affairs programming—rather than importing the entire station signal into their market to compete for eyeballs and advertising.

The FCC has apparently concluded that it was right the first time, particularly given that Dish and AT&T/DirecTV had certified that it was feasible to carry the stations, which is a threshold issue for granting a market modification.