Fischer, Smith Introduce Bicameral Legislation to Bring Local Television Programming to Western Nebraska Counties

December 3, 2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, and U.S. Representative Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) today introduced the Western Expanded In-State Television (WEST) Access Act in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, to ensure that satellite subscribers in 16 western Nebraska “orphan counties” — those assigned to Designated Market Areas (DMAs) based in other states — can access in-state broadcast programming.  

“No matter where you live in our state, you should have access to broadcast coverage of Nebraska news, weather, sports, and information on local events. I am joining Rep. Smith to introduce the WEST Access Act because local television programming is necessary to keep Nebraskans well-connected and informed about what’s happening in their communities,” said Senator Fischer.

“While DMA coverage requirements are important to ensuring consumers can access local news, weather, public safety information, programming, and advertising meaningful to them, these rules can also inadvertently lock rural viewers into television markets which don’t meet their needs. Correcting this situation for families in western Nebraska by ensuring they have access to the relevant channels closest to them – a benefit already enjoyed by most Americans – is important to the long term strength and safety of rural Nebraska,” said Rep. Smith.

More information about the WEST Access Act:

The WEST Access Act would create an exemption in Section 122 of the Copyright Act to allow satellite access to local, in-state TV stations in the 16 Nebraska counties assigned to Denver or Sioux Falls market areas. 

A market modification petition process exists at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to correct orphan counties, but it can be a resource-intensive process for small, rural county commissions to undertake individually. This legislation would better enable the FCC to make a decision on an orphan county modification that prioritizes the provision of in-state programming.  

Click here to read the full text of the Senate bill, and here to read the full text of the House bill.