Collins Urges FCC to Approve Orphan County Petition
WASHINGTON—Franklin County has moved to end the years it has spent without access to Georgia programming. An “orphan county,” Franklin is currently limited to South Carolina satellite television programming as part of the Greenville media market or North Carolina programming from Ashville. County Manager Beth Thomas has submitted its market modification petition to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which could be the key to getting access to local television channels for residents.
Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) welcomed the petition and has filed his own comment with the FCC in its support and explained why this step represents significant progress for the three other orphan counties in Northeast Georgia.
“Residents of Franklin, Elbert, Hart and Stephens Counties have clearly and consistently voiced their frustrations with a lack of Georgia programing options. Georgians deserve access to weather, news and sports coverage on our state, and I’m excited to support Franklin County’s petition as the next step in making that a reality for its community,” said Collins.
The content of Collins’ comment on Franklin County’s petition is available in full below:
The Honorable Ajit Pai
Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20536
Dear Chairman Pai,
I write in strong support of the satellite market modification petition submitted by Franklin County, seeking coverage of in-state broadcasting from Atlanta-based stations. This petition is the culmination of years of work by the Franklin County government in support of their residents’ need for access to in-state television programming for news, weather, and sports. A recent survey found that over 94% of respondents in four orphan counties in Northeast Georgia, including Franklin County, are interested in receiving in-state television broadcasting, highlighting the importance of this issue among county residents.
Residents of Franklin County who subscribe to satellite television currently receive only local programming from broadcasting stations in the Ashville, North Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina media markets. As a result, residents are deprived of the range of critical information that in-state broadcasters provide to their communities. Since weather patterns in this region generally move from west to east, residents depend on public safety messages that come through in-state broadcasters. Thus, the provision of local broadcasting options represents a matter of public safety as well as an important cultural and economic link between Franklin County and the rest of Georgia.
This petition comes after years of effort in the legislative and executive branches of our government as well as at the state level. I worked alongside Congressional colleagues and stakeholders to develop a viable solution that was ultimately included [in] the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014. The Commission’s promulgation of final rulemaking in September of 2015 and the issuance of the first market modification orders in early 2017, pursuant to the STELAR Act, provides hope that the residents of the counties in Northeast Georgia will finally have access to the local broadcasting that they so urgently want and need.
I urge the Commission to diligently review Franklin County’s petition and work with all affected stakeholders to quickly complete consideration of their satellite market modification petitions.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Member of Congress
Collins authored language in the 2014 Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization (STELAR) Act to allow orphan counties like Elbert, Franklin, Hart and Stephens the ability to petition the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move into a different Designated Market Area (DMA) if their residents support that change.
As a result of this provision, the FCC established a path for modifying satellite television markets, and this path favors modification requests that give residents access to television stations in their home states via satellite providers.
With the STELAR Act in place and the support of Collins, Franklin County is the first in the Ninth District to petition the FCC to be moved into a Georgia DMA. Elbert, Hart and Stephens Counties are preparing petitions of their own.