Alabama TV Station In Must Carry Spat Tries To Humor FCC Staff

Jan 09, 2024

By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband

Washington, D.C., Jan. 9, 2024 – Alabama TV station WGBP has deployed just about every legal argument possible in an effort to win a carriage dispute with Dish Network.

Now the station is trying a little humor with staff in the Federal Communications Commission’s Media Bureau to get across its point that Dish is blurring the meaning of regulations that are clear on their face.

“While these interpretations are clear and unambiguous, Dish effectively asks the Media Bureau staff to stand on one foot, put on a pair of oversized sunglasses, and spin around five times, to try to find a different meaning,” said Wiley Rein lawyer Ari Meltzer, counsel for WGBP owner CNZ Communications, in a Jan. 5 filing with the FCC.

WGPB and Dish have been embroiled in a carriage dispute for weeks, starting with WBPG’s complaint filed with the FCC on Dec 11, which was followed by Dish’s request for dismissal on Jan. 2, which prompted WGPB’s Jan. 5 reply to Dish’s dismissal.

The dispute centers on the extent of the distribution to which WGPB, based in Opelika, Ala., is entitled under the Satellite Home Viewer Improvement Act of 1999 and FCC staff rulings that have interpreted and implemented that law for more than 20 years.

Although WGPB claims that it is entitled to carriage in both the Atlanta, Ga., and Columbus, Ga., TV markets, Dish thinks the station’s legal rights include the Atlanta market and just Lee County, Ala., in the Columbus TV market. Opelika is the county seat of Lee County.

The Columbus TV market has about 235,000 TV households, Lee County has about 65,000 TV households, and the Atlanta market has about 2.6 million TV households.

Among other things, Dish said that if the FCC embraced WGPB’s legal interpretation, the agency would be opening “the floodgates” and inviting other TV stations to find new home locations that would qualify for carriage in two TV markets rather than one.

Dish asked the FCC to deny the WGPB’s complaint, saying it was “based on a misreading of the relevant statute, regulations, and FCC precedent.”

WGBP airs the digital multicast network NBC LX Home, according to its website.

CNZ’s complaint was related to its carriage election for the 2024-26 cycle, which began on Jan. 1.