Ron pushes FCC so Wisconsinites can watch Packers games

The Rice Lake Chronotype
By: Ryan Urban
December 30, 2015

Northwest Wisconsin residents may have better access to in-state news and sports coverage if an effort to modify TV markets is successful.

Sen. Ron Johnson has been pushing the Federal Communications Commissions to allow satellite TV providers to carry in-state signals. 

“Constituents in Hurley, Ashland and Rice Lake, Wisconsin, all of which are considered part of Minnesota media markets, have expressed their frustration with not getting Wisconsin news or Packer games,” wrote Johnson in a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.

Johnson said some Green Bay Packers fans missed six games last year and two this year because the their media carried the Minnesota Viking game instead.

TV markets are set by the Nielsen company, known mostly for gathering information on viewership.

Markets are influenced by weather patterns, signal quality and proximity to TV stations, said Brooke Ericson, a staff member of Johnson’s office.

Ericson said Johnson has been aware of the issue since he took office in 2010.

Even before Johnson, Se. Russ Feingold had tried to modify TV markets without success.

“This has been a long fight in Wisconsin,” said Ericson.

In 2014, Johnson supported a bill with a measure to start a process to change markets for satellite TV customers.

“I am also pleased to support a provision in the underlying bill that creates a process to petition the Federal Communications Commission to allow satellite providers to carry in-state signals,” said Johnson at the time.

He also supported another bill aimed at creating more access for TV subscribers outside their media market.

But progress on the matter has been slow, prompting Johnson to send another letter to the FCC, asking for the agency to move swiftly on petitions to make Wisconsin stations available to people who depend on satellite television in parts of the state near Minnesota TV markets.

“We’re talking to some stations, hoping they will apply right away,” said Ericson.

She said it is important to get petitions soon because it may still take several months for the FCC to issue a new ruling on TV markets.

Ericson said they hope to have a change by kickoff of the Packers’ 2016 season.

“This is an issue Senator Johnson is dedicated to,” she said. “We’re not going to give up on it. We’re going to keep going until we get a result.”