WASHINGTON — An FCC commissioner is recommending that satellite viewers in the territory receive their local PBS member station instead of content from stations in Puerto Rico.
WTJX, which used to be powerfully-run by Mapp No. 2 man Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter, has been broadcasting for 40 years but is not available to “a growing number of residents” who use DISH Network as their local provider, said Commissioner Mignon Clyburn in a statement Monday.
DISH instead offers the PBS national feed and content from several public television stations in Puerto Rico.
“Geographically, Puerto Rico is just over 100 miles from the Virgin Islands,” Clyburn said. “But make no mistake they are very different communities, not to mention that they have a different dominant language.”
Clyburn compared the situation to “living in New York City and discovering that your pay-TV provider does not carry the local PBS affiliate and instead provides you with a Philadelphia-based station.”
Clyburn recently met with Tanya-Marie Singh, CEO of the Virgin Islands Public Broadcasting System, during a visit to assess telecommunications technology in the islands.
Singh said the situation is especially problematic during election cycles.
“We hear a lot from viewers then,” she said in an interview.
“We have a robust slate of programming during elections,” the former WSVI-TV Channel 8 reporter on St. Croix said. “We partner with the League of Women Voters to interview each candidate for local office.” The station also presents debates and election-night coverage.
Must-carry regulations do not apply because the Virgin Islands is not a Nielsen Designated Market Area, Clyburn said. She cannot compel carriage in her position, Clyburn added, but said, “I do believe it is the right thing to do … and I call on the powers that be to make it happen, now.”
“America’s Public Television Stations appreciate Commissioner Clyburn’s work to ensure that the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands — including satellite subscribers — have access to WTJX’s local public television programming,” said Lonna Thompson, APTS COO and general counsel in a written statement obtained by the Virgin Islands Free Press. “We look forward to working with all interested parties to remedy this situation.”
DISH Network began carrying WSVI-TV Channel 8 locally in 2014. Due to poor management by New York City radio legend David Lampel, the WSVI-TV CEO, Channel 8 lost its ABC Network affiliation on Dec. 31, 2015 — meaning people in the Virgin Islands woke up on New Year’s Day (January 1) 2016 to find that they had no way locally to watch college football bowl games scheduled on ABC Sports that day.
Singh and Potter have been close personal friends for more than two decades. When Potter took power with Gov. Kenneth Mapp in 2015, he handed the reins of WTJX-TV Channel 12 off to Singh.
The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS)’s Channel 12 has since provided unprecedented coverage of the gubernatorial after-party celebrations, press conferences and ad libs by the Mapp-Potter Administration — paid for by the generosity and largesse of the PBS network nationally.
Previously, WTJX provided no such post-election coverage of Government House in St. Thomas and its workings — not for Gov. John P. de Jongh Jr., not for Gov. Charles Turnbull, not for Gov. Roy Lester Schneider, not for Gov. Alexander Farrelly and not for Gov. Juan F. Luis.
WTJX CEO Tanya-Marie Singh