San Francisco station appeals FCC decision threatening its satellite carriage

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A San Francisco noncommercial TV station is challenging an FCC decision that would result in its losing carriage on the Dish Network for three years because it used the wrong kind of mail service in corresponding with the satellite TV operator.

The station’s case has gotten the attention of leading public TV representatives, with America’s Public Television Stations, PBS and CPB now lobbying the FCC to lift the reporting rules.

Under FCC regulations, noncommercial TV stations must renew requests for carriage of their signals on satellite TV operations every three years. The rules say stations must send their requests in writing via “certified mail, return receipt requested.”

According to the FCC, KMTP made its request on time late last year to qualify for continued carriage on Dish during the three-year period that began Jan. 1. KMTP’s request included all information required by the FCC, the agency said. But it sent the request by priority express mail, not certified mail.

As a result, the FCC said Dish’s rejection of KMTP’s carriage request was permissible.

“Because KMTP failed to send its carriage election by the method required under our rules, we must deny its complaint,” the FCC Media Bureau said in its Jan. 23 ruling.

In a petition filed with the agency Feb. 5, KMTP asked FCC Media Bureau officials to reconsider the ruling. “DISH admits that the notice was sent by priority express mail, return receipt requested, and that DISH received the notice,” KMTP said. “The decision is in error, should be rescinded and DISH should be ordered to immediately carry KMTP.”

“It’s not in the public interest for the FCC to enforce the rule in that manner,” added James Winston, an attorney for the station, in an interview.

In a response filed with the FCC, Dish said the dispute “is not about whether KMTP’s chosen mailing method worked this time. It is about the commission’s longstanding requirement that broadcasters use a specific method of mailing, and not any other when electing mandatory carriage.”

America’s Public Television Stations offered its support for KMTP’s petition for reconsideration in a filing Wednesday. APTS argued that “by ruling that actual notice to Dish by the pertinent deadline was insufficient,” the FCC’s decision “did not take into account the public interest.”

Lonna Thompson, general counsel of America’s Public Television Stations, called the certified-mail requirement “stupid” in an interview with Current. “It just goes to another reason of how these rules are outdated,” Thompson said.

In a separate FCC proceeding, APTS, CPB and PBS have urged the commission to revise the rule and to eliminate the requirement that public broadcasters renew their satellite TV carriage requests every three years.

“The FCC should permit use of any reasonable delivery method for carriage election notices, provided that the method can confirm delivery,” the public broadcasting organizations said in their filing at the agency.

In its own comments in the same proceeding, Dish said it supported the status quo, though it could support a move to an online notification system “if accompanied with sufficient safeguards.” If the FCC opts for online notification, Dish said the agency should create a publicly accessible website hosted by the FCC.

This story has been updated with details about APTS’ filing in support of KMTP’s petition for reconsideration.

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