Pitkin County weighs broadcast demands
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO Colorado
ASPEN – Whether Roaring Fork Valley television and FM radio stations could or should bump stations from outside the area off Pitkin County’s translator system is at the heart of a proposed policy to prioritize use of the limited space within the system.
The policy, spurred by requests from two commercial radio stations – Aspen-based KUUR and KMTS in Glenwood Springs – would give priority first to local public radio stations Aspen Public Radio (KAJX) and KDNK in Carbondale, and then Colorado Public Radio, followed by other local stations and then commercial and noncommercial stations outside the valley.
But the prospect of bumping a commercial radio station out of Grand Junction, for example, in order to give a local station a spot on the system, troubled county commissioners on Tuesday. There is no space to accommodate additional radio stations at present.
“A new station coming on would have to bump an existing station that’s in the system now,” explained Dan Chicoine, the county’s communication site manager.
“It’s not so much the adding on that concerns me as the removal. Is there an appeal process for that?” asked Commissioner Rachel Richards, voicing concern about potential legal consequences if one station is removed in favor of another.
Commissioner Rob Ittner questioned whether stations had equal access to the tax-supported system, which transmits broadcast signals into the nooks and crannies of the county, providing radio and television reception that would otherwise be blocked by the mountainous terrain. Stations are not charged to use the system to extend their signal, as federal law doesn’t allow it, commissioners were told.
For residents who have cable TV, for example, the system is unnecessary, but there are plenty of rural areas where cable is not available, Commissioner George Newman noted.
Chicoine said he received three calls on Tuesday from residents wanting to know how to get TV reception off the translator system. (A digital TV and antenna is all that’s required for someone within “line of sight” of a translator tower, he said.)
“Most people don’t realize there wouldn’t be [radio] in their automobiles without the translator service,” Richards added.
The proposed priorities for TV stations on the translator system put CGTV and Grass Roots TV first, major national networks second and other networks that provide programming relevant to the county third. For both radio and TV, service requested by residents is a consideration under the proposed policy.
There are nine translator sites placed on mountaintops around the valley; some handle both TV and radio and some accommodate one or the other, according to Chicoine. Some sites have more capacity than others, but no additional capacity is available through the Federal Communications Commission, he said.
There is additional space currently available for television stations, making it a less pressing issue. Currently, CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, WGN2 out of Denver and two PBS stations are among those already broadcasting via the translators, along with CGTV and Grass Roots. Local commercial radio stations KSPN and KSNO both have space on all of the available radio translator sites, as do KAJX, KDNK and Colorado Public Radio. Some stations from outside the valley also use some of the radio translator sites.
An annual look at requests for space on the system, to be considered by the county’s Translator Advisory Board, is proposed.
With commissioners Jack Hatfield and Michael Owsley absent, Richards called for further refinement of the proposal.
“For me, it’s not entirely cooked yet,” she said.
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