Udall, Gardner push TV access

Campaigns battle for credit in election year

The issue of bringing Denver TV stations to Southwest Colorado viewers is getting a lot of attention in this election year.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced legislation Wednesday to bring Denver TV to La Plata and Montezuma county residents. The legislation would amend the Communications Act of 1934 and copyright laws to allow local viewers to receive Colorado broadcast stations by satellite or cable.

It is similar to legislation introduced in previous sessions that went nowhere.

Udall’s legislative move followed one by Rep. Cory Gardner on May 8. Gardner introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to study the Denver TV issue.

Gardner is challenging Udall in one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate races. Republicans are hoping they can reverse a trend of Colorado electing Democrats in statewide elections.

Udall introduced the bill along with Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.

“For too long, TV market lines have orphaned Coloradans living in the Four Corners region from the news, weather, sports and emergency information they need,” Udall said in a news release.

“With wildfire season upon us, the time for government studies is over,” he added, in an apparent dig at Gardner’s legislation. “The residents of Durango, Cortez and the Four Corners region deserve a permanent solution that gives them access to Colorado TV – either from Denver or Grand Junction. The Colorado NEWS Act offers a clear path forward that addresses this problem.”

The politicians are reacting to an oft-heard complaint in La Plata County: Many households receive TV news from Albuquerque rather than Denver because of Nielsen TV market designations. The designations also can affect who receives Denver Broncos broadcasts.

Gardner’s office did not respond Thursday to inquiries from The Durango Herald.

The campaigns appear to have seized on the Denver TV issue in hopes it will help them with Southwest Colorado voters in November. Politico, citing anonymous sources, reported last week that Gardner’s amendment was first written by New Mexico Democrat Ben Ray Luján – but Republican staff members allowed the legislation to move forward only after Luján agreed to let Gardner attach his name to it.

In April, Udall brought Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to Durango to discuss the issue.

The forum drew public officials and even a local resident who said she was more familiar with New Mexico’s governor than Colorado’s because of TV news distribution.

A Quinnipiac University poll released April 24 found Udall with a tight 45-44 percent lead over Gardner.