A group of community broadcasters and the recently formed Coalition for Local Television (CLT) were left in the lurch this month when the Federal Communications Commission unexpectedly cancelled its Oct. 15 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., which was to include a proposal that would allow Class A TV stations an opportunity to apply to earn full-power TV status, giving them full spectrum rights and access to cable distribution. Many of these stations serve minority and rural communities and include a range of Azteca América and Telemundo affiliates nationwide.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin had wanted the agency to vote on the plan, although he decided against it the day before the Nashville meeting after failing to obtain two votes in addition to his to ensure passage.
In a statement sent out to the media, the CLT expressed its “strong disappointment” by the cancellation, particularly because time is running out before the February 2009 digital transition, when many Class A and low-power stations may be losing their ability to reach their audiences.
“What has happened is that, in the course of the digital transition, we have been simply left out,” said Randy Nonberg, member of the coalition and president of Una Vez Más, the largest Azteca América affiliate group.
“In addition to the petition we circulated […] in support of the proposal from over 150 stations with diverse programming from across the country, many of those same owners and station employees were driving or flying from around the country on their own time and expense to be heard,” added Mayela Rosales, executive vice president of Azteca America SWFL, D’Latinos and a member of the Coalition for Local Television.
For Nonberg and other members of the coalition, the broadcast signal power limitations originally imposed by the FCC on low-power television stations made sense in the analog broadcast era, but not in today’s digital era.
The FCC has yet to signal its next move, which could include a Notice of Inquiry, which according to the group of stations, will only delay the process. “If the FCC moves forward with a NOI, we are entitled to a process with transparency, accountability and most importantly, a quick deadline,” said Ron Gordon, president of ZGS Communications and a member of the CLTV.