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Congress may improve state access to televised Packers games

By: Diana Marrero , Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Washington - What could be worse for Green Bay Packers fans than having to watch the Minnesota Vikings on television when they are not playing their beloved team? That's the situation going on in northwestern Wisconsin, according to Sen.Russ Feingold, who joked that his top priority is to change that.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Feingold questioned broadcast and cable television executives about the television rules that prevent some Wisconsinites from watching Wisconsin programming with satellite dishes.

Because of complicated rules surrounding satellite television, residents in several Wisconsin counties in the northwestern corner of the state are able to receive only Minnesota-based television broadcasts because they fall within those markets. It's a problem that Feingold says he often hears during his listening sessions in that part of the state.

"Most of my constituents only want to watch the Vikings when they lose to the Packers, and they are frustrated that an arbitrary line on a map prevents them from seeing their favorite team," he said. "We need to look for ways to ensure that people living in Wisconsin are able to watch the news, sports and other programming that affects them."

TV markets for satellite coverage are determined by the Nielsen Designated Market Area. Several Wisconsin counties, including Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Dunn, Iron, Pierce, Polk, Sawyer, St. Croix and Washburn, receive only Minnesota television stations because of this designation.

The hearing comes as lawmakers consider legislation to update the rules surrounding satellite television. Satellite firms are asking Congress for more flexibility about transmitting broadcast channels to other markets. They are now prevented from importing stations from adjacent areas, which often means that residents near state lines get stations only from neighboring states and not their own. Feingold supports those changes.

Asked about his quest to make Packers games available to all Wisconsinites, Feingold called it his "top priority."

"I thought I got a very good shot off at the Vikings today, so I feel like I've done something," he said.


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