FCC considering taking NCE-TV channel away from Phoenix for Telemundo

REC is very closely watching a Table of Allotments case in Phoenix that can have a ripple effect and could impact the future of channels reserved for non-commercial use.

Just a full disclosure here, REC normally involves itself with radio issues however what we are going to talk about here is going to impact television.

In Phoenix, a Petition for Rulemaking has been filed jointly by NBC (GE)-Telemundo, licensee of KPHZ Channel 11 in the rural community of Holbrook and Community Television Educators, licensee of non-commercial educational station KDTP Channel *39 in Phoenix. KDTP runs Daystar Christian programming.

The joint petitioners are asking the FCC:
- To dereserve Channel *39 in Phoenix to allow for a commercial station (Telemundo) to use the channel
- To reserve Channel 11 in Holbrook for non-commercial use.
- To allow Telemundo and CTE to "swap" channels.

In their petition, Telemundo claims that they are not able to compete in Holbrook and must move to a full power station to take on KTVW, the long running Univision affilliate. Despite their claims, the FCC notes in their notice of proposed rulemaking in this matter that the coverage area of the current low power station that broadcasts Telemundo programming has "nearly the same" coverage area as spanish broadcasters Azteca, Telefutura and even Univision.

Even though the KPHZ Channel 11 in Holbrook can not be viewed over the air in Phoenix:
- Telemundo is operating on a Class A station in Phoenix. (Class A stations are low power TV stations that have been given protection from being displaced by digital television stations because they provide a minimal amount of local content.)
- Telemundo (via the class A) is carried by both Cox and Qwest, the two dominant cable providers.
- Telemundo (via KPHZ) is carried by DISH Network
- Neither Telemundo (via KPHZ) or KDTP are carried on DIRECTV.

Under current FCC rules, this channel swap would not be possible because the service areas (contours) of the Holbrook station and the Phoenix station do not overlap, even if the Hollbrook was operating at it's full capability.

REC is extremely concerned about this action in our own backyard since it will reduce the number of NCE allotments in the 6th largest city in America from 2 to 1 leaving only the PBS station (KAET) as the only non-comm TV in the market.

REC feels that the grassroots and those concerned with media concentration should be watching this case really close. This can set a precidence that it is OK for large corprorations like GE, Viacom, Fox, etc. to come into markets, purchase failing NCE stations get them unreserved in the sake of "the public interest" and deny the availability of diverse media sources. Faith based organizations who may have a stake in a non-commercial broadcast station should be concerned about this proposed rulemaking.

The FCC is now requesting comments on this matter. The FCC wants to know:
- If the FCC allows Channel 39 to become a commercial channel and Channel 11 in Holbrook a non commercial channel whether the public interest considerations (of letting Telemundo have Channel 39) outweigh the benefits of entertaining competing applications (e.g. auctions) for the new "commercial" channel 39.
- Is the de-reservation of one of two channels dedicated to non-commercial service in Phoenix is consistent with Congress' long time edict that the FCC provides a "fair, efficient and equitable distribution of radio services"?
- Is the reservation of the only commercial channel in Holbrook also consistent with Congress' edict?
- Does the Phoenix area no longer need 2 non-commercial educational TV services or does the need to allot a 9th commercial allotment outweigh the benefits of having 2 non-commercial stations?
- In Holbrook, is there a greater need for a non-commercial channel than for the currently alloted commercial channel? (Note: at one time, Holbrook had a non-commercial channel reserved for it, but it was never used.)
- If CTE was allowed to broadcast in Holbrook, could they meet the local needs of that community?

We note that subsequent activities by the FCC in this matter has extended the comment date to November 30, 2004 with reply comments due by December 14, 2004. In addition, the FCC has declared this proceeding as a "permit-but-disclose" proceeding. This means that in addition to filing comments, other communications (called "ex-parte") can be made with the Commissioners and other FCC staff. These can be written or verbal. You must, however file a notice with the FCC Secretary to give information on the communication and what the content of the communication was. (normally, broadcast allotment proceedings like this are restricted proceedings where such communications are not allowed.)

We do not know if the Commission's Electronic Comment Filing System will accept comments for this proceeding but you can always file comments by paper. For more information on how to file comments by paper, visit this website: http://www.fcc.gov/osec/guidelines.html

This is MB Docket 04-312 / RM-11049 at the FCC.

REC Networks is an advocate for free access to the public airwaves. We do this through our ongoing support of the Low Power FM (LPFM) broadcast service. REC provides free broadcast database services to those who are interested in starting an LPFM service as well as others who are interested in the movement. REC also involves itself in FM broadcast allotment, media licensing and spectrum management issues within our area of interest of Arizona, Southern California and Nevada.

For more information, visit our website at http://www.recnet.com