Senator urges FCC to help area station | PostIndependent.com

Senator urges FCC to help area station

Phillip Yates
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

WASHINGTON ” U.S. Senator Wayne Allard announced late Wednesday that he has asked the head of the Federal Communications Commission to assist KREX-TV viewers who no longer can receive CBS and FOX programming because of a devastating fire at the station Sunday.

The development comes as the station tries to get back on the air in the next couple of days, said KREX General Manager Ron Tillery.

For many area residents who don’t have cable or satellite, KREX-TV was the only television station that they could tune in to. The fire knocked out transmission to KREX’s full-power satellite station KREG, which provides CBS programming and the

station’s newscasts for those in the Roaring Fork Valley who can pick up the signal.

“Hopefully you are going to see our test signal pop up in a matter of days,” Tillery said. “We’ll just go from there.”

The fire at KREX erupted early Sunday. Fire officials have called the destruction at the television station, at 345 Hillcrest Drive, a total loss and have pegged the damage at more than $6 million. Doug Lucas, a fire investigator with the Grand Junction Fire Department, said the cause of the fire may never be known.

“Because of this unfortunate incident, I have thousands of constituents who live in isolated areas and cannot access CBS and FOX programming,” Allard wrote in a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin. “I am requesting that you and the commission do everything in your power to assist these individuals.”

Allard, in his letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, wrote that the television station reaches 117,000 households. A spokeswoman for the FCC said Thursday that the agency does not comment on correspondence Martin receives.

Tillery said it is a “welcome event when one of your elected representatives recognizes the importance of what we’re doing and he offers to help in whatever way he can.”

“That means a lot to us,” Tillery said. “We’ve had nothing but terrific cooperation from the FCC so far, but for Senator Allard to weigh in like that certainly doesn’t hurt. The support he has given, plus the tremendous support we have gotten from local officials and local businesses and individuals, is going to help us get back on the air quicker.”

Getting back on the air

Tillery said it was important for the station to provide programming for over-the-air viewers who don’t have cable or satellite and minimize the time “we are off the air.”

He said he was hopeful that the station could get back on the air in a matter of days.

Station workers have removed the transmitter equipment from the charred fire scene ” most of which is still functional and operational, Tillery said. Station employees were reinstalling transmitter equipment in a temporary facility at the base of the station’s tower on Thursday and will test it over the course of the next two or three days, he said.

Once the station can transmit again, Tillery said station staff will begin with on-air testing with a simple graphic message. After a series of further tests, the station will rebroadcast network programming and add what it can, like syndicated programming, commercial insertions and then local news generation.

“It is going to be a tiered process,” Tillery said. “We anticipate we will be back to full operation very shortly.”

Helping the station out

In Allard’s letter to Martin, he said that he would “appreciate it” if Martin would expedite any emergency measures available to the commission for getting CBS and FOX programming to the area as soon as possible, including allowing temporary distant signal importation for the local satellite networks that serve the communities who no longer receive the stations.

Allard wrote that while local cable provider Brennan Communications is airing national CBS and FOX feeds, satellite provider DISH Network has not found any replacements for area viewers. DirecTV does not offer any Grand Junction programming, the letter said.

“Cable and satellite are all but essential for acceptable television in much of western Colorado due to the market’s rugged terrain,” the letter said.

On the heels of Allard’s letter, Rocky Mountain PBS announced that its KRMJ station would offer production studio facilities to KREX.

“We are certainly glad that we can help out this way,” said Joe McGee, chief engineer at KRMJ in a prepared statement. “This is a very tight-knit community and we are glad to be a part of it, especially in this time of need.”

The two stations reached an agreement on Wednesday that will allow KREX to use the KRMJ studio for its daily news production.

Contact Phillip Yates: 384-9117

pyates@postindependent.com

Post Independent, Glenwood0 Springs, Colorado CO


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