Denver affiliates for ABC (KMGH) and FOX (KDVR) are available in La Plata County to subscribers of DISH Network, but some viewers are having trouble finding them:
ABC is on Channel 10 and FOX is on Channel 31.
In addition, La Plata County subscribers to DirecTV will soon receive ABC, according to a news release Tuesday from U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., who said KMGH had reached an agreement with the satellite provider to carry it as well.
“We welcome the agreement to bring Denver7 to DirecTV subscribers in La Plata County,” Bennet said. “Residents in Southwest Colorado have waited long enough to access programming from our state, and I am glad we are finally seeing progress after years of effort. Access to in-state programming has perhaps never been more critical with the coronavirus pandemic, and I urge the other parties to build on this momentum and swiftly reach agreements of their own.”
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith said getting news from Denver is especially important now with Gov. Jared Polis and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment regularly imposing new restrictions on public gatherings and providing updated information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The governor is putting out public health orders that I’m being ordered to enforce, and I want the people to be informed,” Smith said. “And getting updates from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the governor of New Mexico, is not particularly helpful.”
Alison Rhodes, a La Plata County DISH subscriber, assumed the existing Albuquerque affiliate channels would be replaced by the Denver signal. Instead, DISH is still carrying the Albuquerque stations and adding KMGH, ABC, out of Denver, on channel 10; and KDVR, FOX, out of Denver, on channel 31.
Karen Modlin, spokeswoman for DISH Network, said anyone who does not subscribe to the local package, which carries the Albuquerque stations, would not receive either the Albuquerque or the Denver stations.
The county’s DISH subscribers must have the local package to view the Albuquerque network affiliates and now also ABC and FOX out of Denver.
“There is an option not to take the local channels, and a lot of people choose that because it saves you about $12 a month, and you can see the local affiliates for free on a digital antennae,” Modlin said.
Michael Balmoris, spokesman for DirecTV, said KMGH was added Monday night on channel 17 for its La Plata County subscribers. He did not immediately have further details.
DirectTV’s addition of KMGH comes days after Bennet; along with U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo.; U.S. Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez; and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser called on Denver broadcasters and national satellite companies to reach an agreement to provide residents in Southwest Colorado access to in-state programming during the coronavirus outbreak.
In 2010, Bennet pushed Congress to require the Federal Communications Commission to report on potential solutions to bring Colorado broadcasts to the two counties. In 2014, Bennet secured language in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Reauthorization Act to help La Plata and Montezuma counties access in-state broadcasts from cable and satellite providers.
After passage of the STELAR Act, Bennet, along with Gardner and Tipton, wrote to the FCC requesting a rule change to allow counties to petition the FCC to change their broadcasting markets to allow in-state programming.
After the FCC finalized the rule to allow for such petitions, Bennet worked with county commissioners in La Plata County to submit one. The FCC approved La Plata County’s petition in 2017.
La Plata and Montezuma counties are dubbed “orphan counties,” meaning their local stations come from an out-of-state broadcaster based on Nielsen designated market areas. The counties are in the Albuquerque DMA.
Denver affiliates have been shy to offer their signals to La Plata and Montezuma counties based on legal complications and contractual obligations with program syndication companies that are based on geographic boundaries set by Nielsen DMAs.
The crumbling resistance of Denver affiliates to offer their signals to the state’s Southwest corner appears to be one of the few bright spots in the unrelenting grim nature of events since the outbreak of COVID-19.