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Charting a Path Forward for Georgia Programming

Jul 21, 2017
Op-Ed

WASHINGTON—This op ed by Congressman Doug Collins (R-Ga.) appeared in the Franklin County Citizen Leader on July 20, 2017.

After decades without access to Georgia programming, Franklin County has reason to hope for better days and Atlanta channels. Northeast Georgia’s orphan counties are those that depend on South Carolina broadcasts because they’ve been assigned to an out-of-state Designated Market Area (DMA), a DMA that doesn’t offer these Georgia residents the local news, weather, and sports television coverage they deserve—but there’s new evidence that could change.

I’ve been listening to my neighbors on this issue for a long time. They have clearly and consistently voiced their frustrations with a lack of Georgia programing options available to satellite customers in our most eastern communities, and their desire for truly local media is as reasonable as it is practical.

I authored language in the 2014 Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act included in order to allow orphan counties like Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens the ability to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move into a different DMA if their residents support that change.

Because of this provision, the FCC has established a path for modifying satellite television markets, a path that favors modification requests that give residents access to television stations in their home states via satellite providers. After all, Georgia residents should have the wind at their backs should they appeal for television coverage focused on Georgia news and events.

With the STELAR Act in place, we saw the first orphan county success story earlier this year. Colorado’s La Plata County has been limited to New Mexico stations for years and filed an FCC petition to change the satellite market so that its residents could access Denver programming. The FCC granted this petition, and Colorado Senator Cory Gardner credits the success of its request to “locally driven effort.”

This is the kind of local initiative that I’ve been a part of in northeast Georgia, and Colorado’s news means that Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens Counties have a model for success for appealing to the FCC for local programming options.

As with La Plata, teamwork among Georgia stakeholders marks the path forward. I helped lay the legislative groundwork for these requests in 2014 in response to feedback from these communities, and their FCC petitions are nearly complete. These counties have advocated energetically for their residents to have satellite access to Georgia affiliates in areas that are currently limited to South Carolina coverage, and I’m grateful for such local leadership.

While each orphan county is petitioning the FCC individually, a letter of support from the state’s Association of Broadcasters (in this case, the Georgia Association of Broadcasters, or GAB) and advocacy from its Members of Congress strengthen every request. Both of these elements bolstered La Plata County’s petition, and I’m writing to the FCC on behalf of our own counties. I hope that the GAB will issue a letter of support for Franklin County’s petition soon.

Fifty years in northeast Georgia has taught me that our community accomplishes its goals best when we work together. In order to make its case for a reworking of local satellite marketing areas, Franklin County needs support from its Representative in Congress, and it has it.

As we work together to bring local programming to Franklin, residents can continue to share their experiences, concerns, and requests with my office. My team and I are always happy to hear from our neighbors.