Online EXCLUSIVE: Letter asks FCC to move Franklin, other counties to Atlanta TV market due to virus

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Citing the need for in-state information on the coronavirus, Franklin County Manager Beth Thomas has asked the Federal Communications Commission to immediately move area counties to the Atlanta TV market.

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  • Citing the need for in-state information on the coronavirus, Franklin County Manager Beth Thomas has asked the Federal Communications Commission to immediately move area counties to the Atlanta TV market.
    Citing the need for in-state information on the coronavirus, Franklin County Manager Beth Thomas has asked the Federal Communications Commission to immediately move area counties to the Atlanta TV market.
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CARNESVILLE – Franklin County Manager Beth Thomas has asked the Federal Communications Commission in Washington, D.C., to immediately switch area satellite television customers to the Atlanta market.

In a letter sent March 30, Thomas cites the need for local residents to have access to information from Georgia television stations during the coronavirus pandemic.

“States across our great nation are implementing mitigation strategies to battle the spread of the COVID-19 virus,” Thomas wrote. “These state-specific strategies are constantly updated as the situation within our geographical borders evolves. In Georgia, the most at-risk citizens, including the medically fragile, are sheltered at home by order of the Governor. For some, the television is the only window to the outside world. For our citizens in Franklin, Hart, Stephens, and Elbert Counties, the view of the world is filtered through ‘orphan’ eyes. Instead of Georgia broadcasts, our citizens are only allowed to see non-applicable Carolina broadcasts through satellite providers in our rural area.”

Franklin County – along with Elbert, Hart and Stephens counties – is considered an “orphan county” because it is located in a television market that is based outside its own state. 

The four Northeast Georgia counties are in the Greenville-Spartanburg–Asheville–Anderson market, based in South Carolina and North Carolina.

The FCC ruled in 2018 that Franklin County could switch to the Atlanta market, but that has not happened yet because the Carolina stations have appealed Franklin’s ruling and similar ones for neighboring counties.

Franklin has led a years-long effort by the four Northeast Georgia counties to have satellite television customers moved to the Atlanta market.

In her March 30 letter, Thomas asks the FCC to uphold its original ruling and hurry the switch to Atlanta stations.

“We respectfully ask the Commission to uphold the 2018/2019 market modifications that were rightfully granted to each of the Northeast Georgia counties,” she wrote. “Please accelerate any mandated review of the petitions, appeals, and related documentation for each county. Secondly, in this time of declared emergency, we are asking that the Commission, stations, and satellite providers work together to provide access to Georgia news to our Georgia residents immediately. While we recognize the final transition would have to be implemented through contract negotiations, we are asking that special consideration be granted in this State of Emergency to provide our citizens with the Georgia news and broadcasts that impacts their daily lives and actions during this pandemic.”

A representative from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins’ office said that the Congressman would follow up with a similar letter to the FCC as well.

In an email to Franklin commissioners and the other counties, Thomas said she had gotten calls and a letter about the need for Georgia news in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“There has never been a more important time for the FCC to consider our plight,” she said in the email. “I would ask that we all do what is in our power to aid our citizens in their collective request.”

The complete text of Thomas’ letter to the FCC is below.

 

March 30, 2020 

The Honorable Ajit V. Pai 

Federal Communications Commission 

445 12th Street S.W. 

Washington, D.C. 20536 

 

Dear Chairman Pai and Commission Board: 

The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world. Our daily lives are impacted through Declarations of Emergency, Presidential Guidelines, State Executive Orders, and our individual commitment to 'slow the spread'. Americans everywhere are concerned for public health and apprehensive of the economic impact. In Northeast Georgia, our citizens are facing another issue in the midst of the coronavirus - the fear of the unknown - in our own state and in our own community. 

States across our great nation are implementing mitigation strategies to battle the spread of the COVID-19 virus. These state-specific strategies are constantly updated as the situation within our geographical borders evolves. In Georgia, the most at-risk citizens, including the medically fragile, are sheltered at home by order of the Governor. For some, the television is the only window to the outside world. For our citizens in Franklin, Hart, Stephens, and Elbert Counties, the view of the world is filtered through "orphan" eyes. Instead of Georgia broadcasts, our citizens are only allowed to see non-applicable Carolina broadcasts through satellite providers in our rural area. 

We respectfully ask the Commission to uphold the 2018/2019 market modifications that were rightfully granted to each of the Northeast Georgia Counties. Please accelerate any mandated review of the petitions, appeals, and related documentation for each County. Secondly, in this time of declared emergency, we are asking that the Commission, stations, and satellite providers work together to provide access to Georgia news to our Georgia residents immediately. While we recognize the final transition would have to be implemented through contract negotiations, we are asking that special consideration be granted in this State of Emergency to provide our citizens with the Georgia news and broadcasts that impacts their daily lives and actions during this pandemic. 

After years of focused effort, the awarded market modifications were considered a great success for the people of Northeast Georgia. Communication and education through television and local, state-specific broadcasts have never been as important as it is now in fight against this disease. On behalf of the citizens that we serve, I implore you to take action now. 

Beth Thomas,

County Manager