NBC’s plan to light up a new O&O in Boston Jan. 1 has U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, calling on Comcast to ensure all viewers in the country’s ninth largest market will have free, over-the-air access to the station.
“I’m concerned that when NBC launches its network-owned station in January, some communities in Massachusetts and throughout New England may lose reliable access to free, over-the-air NBC content,” Markey said in a letter to Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. “Seniors, low-income residents, and anyone who has recently ended their pay-TV subscription may be particularly impacted if there is a reduction in coverage.”
In the letter, Markey asked Comcast to provide detailed information showing how NBC plans to deliver its new station, WBTS, to the entire Boston market, even though it doesn’t have as great a reach as the current NBC affiliate, Sunbeam’s WHDH. NBC Station execs say they already have improved the strength of the signal with the addition of two transmitters and the purchase of a low-power TV station.
“WBTS (8.1) and WNEU (60.2) are currently operating and airing the Countdown NBC station," said Comcast in a statement. "We will be providing additional detail in our response to Senator Markey’s letter.”
WBTS’s official January launch will cap NBC’s high-profile effort to establish an O&O in the lucrative Boston market – a move that WHDH owner Ed Ansin tried to stop in court. His station will become a news-heavy independent in 2017.