Satellite Carriers Don’t Need to Include LPTVs, Says FCC

While LPTVs can qualify for cable carriage rights, no such rules exist for satellite.
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WASHINGTON—LPTVs had the gate slammed in their faces by the FCC Media Bureau when it comes to any kind of must-carry rule of their stations on satellite providers, with WVUX-LD, a low power TV station in Fairmont, WVa., having both of its arguments for carriage rights denied.

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WVUX-LD, through its owner and operator Michael Karr, filed a Petition for Declaratory Ruling regarding mandatory satellite carriage of a qualified LPTV and a Demand for Carriage against DirecTV and Dish, both of which refused to carry WVUX-LD in the Clarksburg-Weston Designated Market Area in West Virginia.

The FCC’s decision to deny both the complaint and petition from WVUX-LD is based on the Communications Act of 1934, saying that the LPTV is misunderstanding the law. While the Act does mandate coverage of TV broadcast stations that meet certain conditions, the FCC says it is “unambiguous that these carriage rights are not available to LPTV stations.” Section 338 of the law reads, “[n]o lower power television station … shall be entitled to insist on carriage under this section.”

The Act does say that certain LPTV stations can become qualified for must-carry rules, which WVUX-LD says it is. The station also argued that there is no legitimate reason that cable providers and satellite carriers should be treated differently when it comes to carriage obligations, especially in an area like the one it covers, where a lack of full-power TV stations create limited options for customers.

However, the FCC determined that “WVUX-LD’s status as an LPTV is fatal to its request for satellite mandatory carriage.”

“Moreover, WVUX-LD’s emphasis on being a qualified LPTV is meaningless because Congress has explicitly excluded LPTV stations from a satellite carrier’s mandatory carriage obligation.”

With the petition for a Declaratory Ruling to amend the law, the FCC says because of the unambiguousness of the Communications Act, it cannot grant a declaratory ruling that conflicts with it.

The FCC’s full decision is available here.