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Harrison County seeks East Texas TV station access

By Robin Y. Richardson
Feb. 15, 2017 at 4 a.m.

The Harrison County Commissioners Court approved on Monday to proceed with the filing of a market modification request to the Federal Communications Commission to make Tyler and Longview news stations accessible to Harrison County residents.

The court also approved to spend up to $5,000 to hire a consulting firm to assist the county with the application process, if needed.

"This is a relevant public interest item if there ever was one," said Harrison County Judge Hugh Taylor.

He said, in fact, a constituent in Hallsville had just spoken with him that morning about the great interest. Pct. 4 Commissioner Jay Ebarb, who represents the Harleton area on the west side of the county, has also been flooded with calls from constituents who are thrilled with the idea.

"We're not to the finish line, but we hope to get the process moving down the road a little bit," Taylor said.

In September, the commissioners court approved to ask satellite providers to initiate a feasibility study to allow the county to gain access to more East Texas news channels west of the county. The action became a possibility as a result of the FCC's new satellite market modification rules.

"With the help of the station vice president for KLTV (in Tyler), we finally got our responses from the two satellite providers that serve our constituents," Taylor said.

While Dish Network advised that it would be both "technically infeasible" and "economically infeasible" for it to provide the Tyler-Longview service to the county, Direct TV confirmed that its company could.

"Dish said no, but Direct TV said yes, and in their response they actually affirmed that they could provide service for KFXK, KLTV, KYTK and KETK in our market for the benefit of our constituents," Taylor said. "So the Direct TV response was very positive."

The judge said the process is a tedious one, however, which is why he asked the court to approve up to $5,000 to hire a consulting firm to assist.

"There's a lot of data that has to be compiled (for) these STELAR (Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act Reauthorization) applications and everyone has to be onboard, so I thought I would ask the court to approve to proceed with the filing of the application and set aside some cash in case we have to hire a firm to help us," he said.

"I don't know how long the petitions are considered once we finally accumulate the data necessary to file the appropriate market modification request," he added. But "I hope we can deliver in the future."

He noted that ultimately, local governments, including counties, can request cable operators to offer the same type of modification.

"It's a great deal of interest and I think it'd deliver a great deal of service (regarding) emergency planning for weather," Judge Taylor said. "I think we'd like the opportunity to get both the eastern channels - Texarkana, Shreveport, Bossier - and Longview, Tyler, possibly even Nacogdoches, so this has a huge following.

"I've got direct phone calls here to my office showing interest in going forward," he said. "It's not just about watching the Dallas Cowboys play football, although the Saints are also on at the same time. This is about emergency news, weather and local interest stories."

The process will allow the county to access news, politics, sports, emergency information and other television programming from its own area.

"This is about being part of the western side of this county and hearing about news that is closer to home, hearing news that's closer to their home," said Taylor.

Taylor said a couple of thousand Harrison County residents live in the city of Longview.

"There are several thousand residents in Hallsville and then they are scattered out from Harleton, Noonday (Road), all the way south down Lansing Switch (Road) and Country Club Road and across I-20, out to Quail Lane," he noted. "There are a lot of residents out in the Hallsville, Longview area that have told me they would rather see the Tyler, Longview stations and this may be a means to accomplish that goal.

"It is exciting. It's relevant," he said of the option. "It's an interesting item that I hope our court and our staff can deliver to the constituents."



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