Collins commends FCC decision to uphold Georgia counties’ broadcast petitions

U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) applauded recent action by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to uphold satellite market modification petitions filed by three counties in his home state of Georgia.

“After years and years of advocating for this decision, I couldn’t be happier to see this finally come to fruition,” Rep. Collins said on May 20. “I remain committed to working with the satellite companies and broadcasters until every household in all four counties has full access to Georgia television.”

In its May 20 Memorandum Opinion and Order, the FCC dismissed the Applications for Review (AFRs) filed by numerous broadcast companies requesting review of three decisions by the FCC’s Media Bureau, which granted petitions for market modifications filed by the Boards of County Commissioners of Franklin, Hart, and Stephens counties in Georgia.

“For decades, residents of Franklin, Hart, Stephens and Elbert counties have been deprived of critical news, weather and sports television coverage,” said Rep. Collins. “But thanks to today’s ruling, orphan county residents in northeast Georgia will finally have access to the Georgia broadcasting they deserve.”

The STELA Reauthorization (STELAR) Act of 2014 added satellite television carriage to the FCC’s market modification authority, which previously applied only to cable television carriage. The FCC implemented the satellite market modification process in the STELAR Market Modification Report and Order consistent with Congress’ intent to allow communities “access [to] broadcast stations in their own states via the local television packages offered by satellite carriers,” according to the FCC’s decision.

By extending the market modification process to satellite television, Congress sought to address the problem of a so-called “orphan county,” which is a county that, as a result of the structure of the local television markets, is served exclusively, or almost exclusively, by television stations coming from a neighboring state, according to the FCC.

“Satellite television subscribers residing in an orphan county often are not able to access their home state’s news, politics, sports, emergency information, and other television programming,” according to the FCC’s decision.

Since taking congressional office in 2013, Rep. Collins has sought Atlanta broadcasting services for Franklin, Hart, Elbert and Stephens counties, and authored language in the 2014 STELAR Act to allow orphan counties the ability to petition the FCC to move into a different Designated Market Area if their residents supported that change, according to the congressman’s staff.

While the Media Bureau previously approved the petitions submitted by Franklin, Hart, Stephens and Elbert counties, media stations in South Carolina filed an appeal against the bureau’s approval of the counties’ petitions.

Rep. Collins sent a Nov. 5, 2019 letter to the FCC urging the Media Bureau to work with stakeholders to expedite the appeal process for three of the four counties.