TV access

In-state programming should not require an act of Congress

Keywords: Politics,

U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, is the latest in a long line of elected officials trying to get Colorado television stations for Southwest Colorado residents.

That seems like such a simple, sensible move, yet for decades, it has been impossible to accomplish. Politicians aren’t alone in their advocacy. Cable companies and television translator district officials have tried, and television viewers certainly have.

Will an act of Congress finally work? Maybe (although this isn’t the first shot at a legislative solution), but one shouldn’t be necessary. Congress has more important things to do, and even if it didn’t, the federal government shouldn’t be in the business of allowing Americans to watch their own state’s news on television.

That’s simply nonsensical, as is the idea that this area is tied more closely to New Mexico than to Denver.

Montezuma and La Plata counties currently are part of Albuquerque’s designated market area. Indisputably, that city is nearer than Denver. Then again, Albuquerque is also nearer than Denver is to Archuleta County, which receives Colorado programming.

The arguments for the Four Corners Television Access Act of 2012 are obvious. Denver, not Albuquerque, is the seat of Colorado’s government. Taxes flow to Denver; mandates flow back. The Broncos, Nuggets, Rockies and Avalanche play there. Colorado’s students pay resident tuition at the state’s public universities. The Colorado State Patrol issues tickets here.

And the idea a Colorado congressman may buy television advertising from an Albuquerque station to reach his constituents is bizarre.

Nowhere in Colorado is New Mexico the dominant influence, but that’s no longer a relevant idea anyway. Twenty-first century Americans are both mobile and wired. Those with LDS ties may look toward Utah. Snowbirds may want to know what’s happening in Arizona. Transplants want the news from home, and there’s no real impediment to receiving it. Websites, including this newspaper’s, cross FCC boundaries without a hiccup. Montezuma County residents are free to buy newspapers from anywhere in the world.

Tipton’s bill, which has bipartisan support, would allow “significantly viewed” Colorado programming to be made available to local viewers, who would not have to give up their Albuquerque access either. What might be considered “significantly viewed,” beyond Broncos games, is unclear, but state news would be included.

That would involve a change in rules that currently keep some content exclusive to a single viewing area. Professional sports, which can involve huge advertising revenue, will be central to that discussion, although they shouldn’t be. A discussion really shouldn’t be necessary.

Such restrictions are a relic of broadcast days, and that time is long gone. Sure, some technological changes will be necessary, and service providers should be free to make them or not, as a business decision. Thanks to the Broncos, that decision probably will be an easy one.

Who could have predicted that in the year 2012, in the Congress of the United States, this would be an issue? Let’s hope Tipton can make it go away once and for all.