Local residents with stallite TV such as DirecTV are unable to receive local channels. The FCC is currently taking comments from viewers about satellite rules changes. - Courier Photo by: Doug Sundin

OTTUMWA — Recent severe weather in Iowa drove home the importance of local TV to at least one viewer.

“Last week, when the weather was atrocious, Channel 13 had hours of coverage on where the storms were,” said Larry McCarty of Ottumwa.

He could barely see the signal on regular television when he switched off his satellite programing; he has complained about for months, his satellite does not give him Ottumwa/Kirksville or Des Moines stations.

What he gets instead are “local” stations from the East and West Coast.

“We are not able to receive either CBS (KCCI-TV) or NBC (WHO-TV) programming by satellite,” he said. “People are fed up that they can’t get these things. And with the [OATS] translator down, a lot of people who could get those channels are now in the same boat I am.”

He said satellite companies offer “local” channels to places like Oskaloosa and Albia, but not Ottumwa. The major problem, he contends, is that the FCC needs to change its rules.

Mary Diamond, an FCC spokesperson in Washington, D.C., said the FCC is asking for comments from viewers. The deadline for input on satellite rule changes is April 28.

“We opened this up for public comment ... to seek input from the public. That’s always taken into account and put in the record,” she said.

“I’ve sent a rather lengthy [e-mail] to the FCC; It looks like they may change the rules, but we need [more] people,” said McCarty.

He’s not asking much, he insists.

“I urged the FCC to amend its rules. The satellite providers need to be able to transmit that [Des Moines] signal [which currently] they can’t provide us with. What we’re asking is the FCC permit satellite providers to allow reception of the closest in-state but out-of-[market] network signal... when there is no [local market] signal.”

Local stations are seen on cable, just not satellite.

“We would love to be on satellite. We would all be very happy about that,” said Dianne Little, general manager of KYOU, the FOX station in Ottumwa. “The satellite providers won’t pick us up.”

She understands some of the FCC rulings — she certainly wouldn’t want an outside FOX station being brought into the market she is paying to serve.

“We want to provide free TV to the local community. Local stations pay the FCC fees to provide free over-the-air television; we pay to be able to provide that to our viewers.”

McCarty said he’s not trying to unseat the Ottumwa/Kirksville market FOX and ABC stations. He said he just wants NBC and CBS from Des Moines, two stations which would not be stepping on any toes locally.

But even that is against the law, according to the policy supplied to the Courier by the FCC. Only if the satellite company were to pick up and transmit KYOU and KTVO could satellite then supply Des Moines stations as well.

The FCC spokesperson declined to speculate on potential changes.

“I can’t really project what the commission’s outcome will be,” Diamond said.

However, FCC policy currently states satellite providers are not “required” to pick up Ottumwa stations, they just have the “option.”

“The only ones who can put pressure on the satellite providers [are] the subscribers,” Little said. “It’s the bigger markets that are being taken care of. There are still plenty of parts of the country that can’t get local [stations] into local [satellite service].”

Mark Newman can be reached at 683-5358 or by e-mail at mgnewman@mchsi.com.



Comments about satellite television to the FCC can be directed to: http://fjallfoss.fcc.gov/prod/ecfs/upload_v2.cgi

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