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Public TV Groups Seek FCC Help for DBS Carriage

Two groups representing public and state-run television stations have told the Federal Communications Commission that the agency may have to step in to push satellite-TV providers to provide noncommercial TV networks to more of their subscribers.

That came in comments to the FCC, which Congress directed in satellite reauthorization legislation (the STELA Reauthorization Act of 2014) to report on the current DMA system of determining access to programming and how it could better foster localism. The legislation also provided more flexibility for direct broadcast satellite operators to deliver state-run noncommercial networks to subscribers in orphan counties, border-crossing DMAs that deliver programming from one state to subs in another.

In the filing, the Association of Public Television Stations and the Organization of State Broadcasting Executives said they had expected that provision would "result to a considerable degree in the voluntary carriage of state public television network signals by the DBS carriers," but that had not been the case.

"APTS and OSBE believe that a dialogue needs to begin again among the commission, public television and the DBS carriers to explore creative and effective solutions to the problem of the unavailability of local public television network signals throughout states," they told the FCC.

They argued that the FCC's report must show that "little or no" progress" had been made in achieving the legislation's goal of state-wide coverage for public TV networks and look seriously at whether anything short of "legal compulsion" can get DBS carriers to " to carry state network signals that they have the authority to carry."

Commenters have until May 12 to weigh in, with replies to those comments due June 11.

Dish and DirecTV had not responded to requests for comment at press time.

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.