KGWN takes cable case to federal board

FORT COLLINS – Cheyenne television station KGWN’s strategy to become Northern Colorado’s prime TV news and information source took a leap forward this month with an appeal to federal regulators to expand its coverage area and open the door to cable access.

A nearly two-inch thick document, almost a year in the making, was delivered to the Federal Communications Commission in early March. It outlines the commitment that CBS affiliate Channel 5 has made to the region and contains endorsements from Larimer and Weld county officials at all levels, as well as cultural and business groups.

“We’re just very, very hopeful the commission will agree with the case we make,´ said Louis Wall, president of Augusta, Ga.-based Sagamore Hill Broadcasting LLC, KWGN’s owner.

“If this goes forward, it changes everything. It gives us the opportunity to be the television source for news, information and entertainment in Northern Colorado. It gives us the platform to become a Northern Colorado entity, one that the entire region can be proud of.”

Having exhausted efforts to persuade cable giant Comcast and most other providers to include KGWN in local listings, Wall enlisted Washington, D.C., lawyer Todd Stansbury, a specialist in television broadcast law, to force the issue with the FCC filing. Stansbury has taken two similar cases before the FCC, representing smaller broadcasting companies seeking to expand their markets into more populous areas, and has found success both times.

Stansbury, saying his public comments would not help to move the case forward, deferred to Wall, KGWN General Manager Joan Turner and to the document his law firm prepared.

“I think we’re all excited seeing this process go forward,” Turner said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Regional outpost

Wall and Turner in late 2005 opened a broadcast bureau in downtown Fort Collins, and last year launched a nightly half-hour newscast specifically targeting Northern Colorado, a reflection of their stake in broadening their market.

They also found a minor measure of cable-access success, signing a deal with Johnstown-based US Cable’s regional service and gaining access to about 5,000 households – “a toehold,” as Wall described the October 2005 deal.

The nut of KGWN’s current FCC case is that the station is postured to serve a rapidly expanding Northern Colorado market that is underserved by other television broadcasters, and that it has a long-standing historic presence in the region.

In fact, the station that was founded in 1954 as Wyoming’s first television outlet was a Northern Colorado broadcast staple, with its over-the-air signal and cable listings for four decades, until the middle 1990s. That’s when cable television systems in the region opted to drop KGWN, partly because they said Denver’s KCNC, channel 4, offered much of the same programming.

The new FCC filing asks that the commissioners modify the market boundary for Channel 5 to include Larimer and Weld counties. The station’s current Designated Market Area, fixed by broadcast research firm Nielsen Media Research and accepted by the FCC, consists of four lightly populated counties along the Colorado-Wyoming border and in western Nebraska. Of 210 Nielsen markets, Cheyenne ranks No. 195.

Oddly, KGWN’s designated market is an island within the one Nielsen assigns to Denver, a sprawling broadcast territory that ranks No. 18 nationally.

Since being ousted from most local cable lineups, Channel 5 has been trying to crack the Comcast listings for Greeley, Fort Collins, Loveland and Windsor, where about 80 percent of the region’s cable subscribers reside. The FCC filing notes the wall that Comcast has erected to keep Channel 5 out of their lineup.

‘Most relevant’

“Despite the decades of service, local presence and strategic investments, KGWN-TV is not distributed on certain cable systems that serve substantial numbers of subscribers,” the document says. “This frustrates the ability of many local residents to receive the news and information that is most relevant to their lives.”

Much of what the FCC commissioners will read as they consider KGWN’s request consists of testimonials from local business, government and cultural leaders. The document also describes how Channel 5 has committed to covering news in Fort Collins, Loveland, Greeley and other communities in the region.

“We see KGWN as a part of Northern Colorado and particularly Fort Collins,” Mayor Doug Hutchinson wrote in a letter supporting the station’s FCC petition, adding that Channel 5’s Old Town bureau reflected their commitment.

“It signifies that yes, indeed, Fort Collins is important to a television station and our desire for (our) own television station, a dream we have had for many years, would be much more of a reality if we could find KGWN on Comcast Cable.”

City and county officials from throughout the region presented similar endorsements.

Wall said a statutory clock starts with the FCC’s filing of a public notice of the KGWN petition, expected within a week, and requires the commissioners to issue a ruling within four months.

Cable operators, such as Comcast, will have 20 days after the initial filing to submit rebuttals for the commissioners to consider, and have the right to appeal the FCC’s eventual ruling.

“We are trying to do it right, and I know Todd (Stansbury) feels very positively about our chances,” Wall said. “This could be a major opportunity for Fort Collins, Greeley, Loveland and for the entire region. We’ve got this chance, now. Let’s not blow it.”

FORT COLLINS – Cheyenne television station KGWN’s strategy to become Northern Colorado’s prime TV news and information source took a leap forward this month with an appeal to federal regulators to expand its coverage area and open the door to cable access.

A nearly two-inch thick document, almost a year in the making, was delivered to the Federal Communications Commission in early March. It outlines the commitment that CBS affiliate Channel 5 has made to the region and contains endorsements from Larimer and Weld county officials at all levels, as well as cultural and business groups.

“We’re just very, very hopeful the commission will agree with the case we make,´ said Louis Wall, president of Augusta, Ga.-based Sagamore Hill Broadcasting LLC, KWGN’s owner.

“If this goes forward, it changes everything. It gives us the opportunity to be the television source for news, information and entertainment in Northern Colorado. It gives us the platform to become a Northern Colorado entity, one that the entire region can be proud of.”

Having exhausted efforts to persuade cable giant Comcast and most other providers to include KGWN in local listings, Wall enlisted Washington, D.C., lawyer Todd Stansbury, a specialist in television broadcast law, to force the issue with the FCC filing. Stansbury has taken two similar cases before the FCC, representing smaller broadcasting companies seeking to expand their markets into more populous areas, and has found success both times.

Stansbury, saying his public comments would not help to move the case forward, deferred to Wall, KGWN General Manager…