03.19.20

Gardner, Bennet, Tipton, Weiser Call for Access to In-State Programming in Southwest Colorado During Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO), along with U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO.), and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, wrote to Denver-based television broadcasters and satellite companies calling for a solution to provide residents of Southwest Colorado with access to in-state programming during the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

“The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is an urgent reminder that access to local news is not a mere convenience for local residents,” wrote Senator Gardner and others. “It is a critical matter of public health and wellbeing for Coloradans who need the ability to keep up with rapidly developing circumstances related to the pandemic…Given the stakes, we urge all parties to move expeditiously to reach, at a minimum, a temporary solution to allow residents in La Plata and Montezuma counties to access Denver-based programming until the pandemic abates.” 

“In this statewide COVID 19 crisis having Denver based television available to all La Plata County residents is literally a matter of life safety. We appreciate this leadership from Senator Bennet and our other representatives to advocate for this important priority,” said La Plata County Commissioner Julie Westendorff.

For years, satellite subscribers in La Plata and Montezuma Counties have lacked access to-in state programming. Instead of receiving Denver-based news, sports, and other content, residents in both counties have received broadcasts from Albuquerque, New Mexico because of how Nielsen and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) determined their Designated Market Area (DMA). Although the FCC has since modified the DMA for La Plata County, an impasse in private negotiations between the television broadcasters and satellite companies has prevented a solution, leaving many residents without access to critical in-state programming.

The full text of the letter is available here and below.

To Whom It May Concern:

For years, satellite subscribers in La Plata and Montezuma counties have lacked access to local television. Instead of receiving Denver-based news, sports, and other content, residents in both counties have received broadcasts from Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, is an urgent reminder that access to local news is not a mere convenience for local residents. It is a critical matter of public health and wellbeing for Coloradans who need the ability to keep up with rapidly developing circumstances related to the pandemic, from local announcements about school closures to the availability of testing and treatment to state government responses to limit the spread of the virus.

Given the stakes, we urge all parties to move expeditiously to reach, at a minimum, a temporary solution to allow residents in La Plata and Montezuma counties to access Denver-based programming until the pandemic abates. 

Over the years, we have worked closely with all parties to resolve this issue, and we appreciate the ongoing efforts of all sides to reach an agreement. We recognize that there is no easy solution. These extraordinary circumstances, however, demand creative solutions and urgent progress. Inaction is not an option in this extraordinary time, when all of Colorado needs access to vitally important news from our state.

Thank you for your attention to these issues, and we look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible. 

Sincerely,

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.