Panola County to petition FCC for Texas news stations

Gary resident Venita Judice speaks to the Panola County Commissioners’ Court in June 2018 about a petition to add Texas news stations to local satellite TV line-ups. Judice is helping to spearhead the effort.

It’s a mixed bag in terms of organizers’ success in getting Texas news stations on Panola County satellite TVs through a complicated FCC process.

KTLV (Channel 7) is now airing in Panola County. KFXK (Fox 51) is not, with the last update being they were still negotiating a potential agreement. KFXK did not immediately respond this week to the Watchman’s message inquiring about the current status of those negotiations.

“I don’t understand why they’ve got to negotiate, because this is exactly what they said they would do if we did what they requested, and we did,” Venita Judice said. “We filed. The FCC ruled on it, so it should be a done deal.”

Judice and her brother Keith Gray helped kickstart the process about a year ago, bringing the matter before county officials and generating public support. The FCC granted Panola County’s petition in early March.

Panola County is classified as an “orphan county,” meaning residents live in one state and receive news channels based in another state. A 2014 law allows orphan counties to petition for a market modification — in essence adding a TV market from their state to satellite line-ups in addition to current news stations.

Both Gray and Judice praised County Judge LeeAnn Jones for her work getting everything for the petition ready for the FCC.

“It was not an easy task,” Judice said. “I have to say Judge Jones did a great job. This all fell on her plate, because if she did not do this and the commissioners did not vote on this, then we had no way of forwarding to what we’re getting. It took cooperation from everybody at all levels.”

Panola County viewers are excited to finally get Texas news with the addition of KLTV, both Gray and Judice said.

“I think it’s great!” Gray said.

Gray and Judice both noted the current STELA Act law is up for re authorization in December, meaning the market modification process could go away. The current law is not popular with the satellite TV and broadcasting industries involved, they said, and they don’t know how it might affect getting KFXK in Panola County should that process still be ongoing.

Judice encouraged everyone to contact U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert and U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s offices.

“What we need to do is we need to get the word out that they need to call and contact and say ‘Look, that ruling’s coming up again in December, and we need our elected officials to know what happened.’” Judice said.

Reporter

Carthage native Meredith Shamburger has worked for the Panola Watchman since 2018. Before that, she worked at sister papers in Longview and Marshall; the Dallas Morning News; and The Daily Voice, a hyperlocal news company in Westchester County, New York.