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The Battle Over What To Watch In Elko County

Sibbe Kokke/Flickr

Across parts of Nevada, there districts known as television districts. 

They're government entities responsible for maintaining translators for television broadcasts across rural parts of the state, and for making sure television signals are broadcast properly.

For much of the state, that involves rebroadcasting channels from Reno or Las Vegas.

But Elko County is fighting a battle with NBC over what's on the air there.

The problem started years ago when television markets, otherwise known as designated market areas or DMAs, were first established.

The Nielsen Company, the company that measures television ratings, put Elko into the Salt Lake City market. 

“The footprint that they believe Salt Lake could cover was Elko and Ely were included in that area," Dale Lotspeich, with the Elko Television District Board, told KNPR's State of Nevada.

That designation caused a problem when a local television station started rebroadcasting content from the NBC affiliate in Reno. NBC said the station was not allowed to use the content because there can't be two NBC affiliates in one market area.

NBC pulled its affiliation from Elko and Sinclair Broadcasting, which owned the station, closed the station down.

“Unfortunately, they never took any time to work with the local entities and the translator district so they could plan for something,” Lotspeich said.

Now, the NBC signal is coming from the Salt Lake City station, which means people in the area are not getting Nevada news and programs are coming on at a different time because Utah is in a different time zone.

Lotspeich said the television district has received dozens of complaints about the change.

Now, the television district is working on a solution. One possible fix might be found in Lovelock.

“Right now, we’re working with a television station down in Lovelock run by the Pershing County High School that would like to be able to broadcast across Northern Nevada,” he said.

The district is also working with the Federal Communication Commission about changing the area's DMA.


Dale Lotspeich, Elko Television District Board. 

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Casey Morell is the coordinating producer of Nevada Public Radio's flagship broadcast State of Nevada and one of the station's midday newscast announcers. (He's also been interviewed by Jimmy Fallon, whatever that's worth.)