Dish Asks FCC To Dismiss Alabama Station’s Must-Carry Complaint
By Ted Hearn, Editor of Policyband
Washington, D.C., Jan. 4, 2024 – Dish Network by law is required to carry an Alabama-based TV station, but the extent of the required distribution has become a legal dispute at the Federal Communications Commission.
CNZ Communications, owner of WGBP-TV in Opelika, Ala., claims that under FCC precedent, Dish needs to carry the station throughout the entire Atlanta, Ga., and Columbus, Ga., Designated Market Areas (DMAs).
CNZ filed a complaint with the FCC on Dec. 11 seeking full carriage in both DMAs.
Yesterday, Dish asked the FCC to deny the complaint, saying it was “based on a misreading of the relevant statute, regulations, and FCC precedent.”
Dish has agreed to distribution in WGBP’s Nielsen-assigned Atlanta market, which has about 2.6 million TV households. The sides are at odds over how much WGBP needs to be distributed within the much smaller Columbus DMA, which has about 235,000 TV households.
Dish claims WGBP is entitled to carriage just in Lee County, Ala, in the Columbus DMA, an interpretation that would likely cost WGBP access to thousands of Dish subscribers. Opelika is Lee County’s county seat and WGBP’s community of license.
“The mandatory carriage rules make clear that DISH is not obligated to carry [WGBP] throughout two entire DMAs. Rather, it must carry the station in either the entire Atlanta DMA and Lee County or … the entire Columbus DMA,” Dish said in its FCC filing. “CNZ’s interpretation would give broadcast stations the ability to double the area where they can assert their must-carry rights.”
CNZ maintains that the FCC in 2000 and again in 2022 held that stations in situations similar to WGBP’s may assert mandatory carriage rights in both DMAs
Dish said it was troubled because CNZ’s legal interpretation could prompt TV stations to relocate their community of license to gain distribution in two DMAs rather than one. WGBP has said that only a few stations in the country are licensed to a community located in one local market but assigned by Nielsen to a different market.
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.