U.S. Senator Presses NBC Boston On Its OTA Coverage

By Kevin Eck 

U.S. Senator Ed Markey is giving Comcast until Monday to say whether all viewers in the Boston market will be able watch WBTS without a cable subscription when the new NBC-owned station launches on January 1.

The Boston Globe reports Markey asked Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts about concerns NBC Boston’s OTA signal won’t match the signal from current NBC affiliate WHDH.

“If communities will lose access to free, over-the-air NBC content,” Markey wrote in a letter to Roberts. “How does NBC plan to address this gap in coverage?”

Part of the argument used by WHDH owner Ed Ansin in January when NBC announced his station was losing its NBC affiliation, was to question whether NBC Boston’s OTA signal would reach all viewers in the market. At the time, Senator Markey asked whether poor kids from Brockton would be able to watch the Patriots play on Sundays.

“It’s the elderly,” Ansin recently said in a story on the WHDH website. “It’s the disadvantaged. In addition, it’s the people that are referred to these days as cord cutters, who’ve decided not to pay the cable bills anymore and are not subscribing anymore so they rely on the over the air signal as well. And all of these people, you’re talking about millions of people in Eastern Massachusetts that would be affected.”

“WBTS (8.1) and WNEU (60.2) are currently operating and airing the Countdown NBC station,” said NBC Boston in a statement posted on the WHDH website. “We will be providing additional detail in our response to Senator Markey’s letter.”

Viewers are also expressing concern about the signal change on the NBC Boston Facebook page. NBC Boston began broadcasting in November in a soft launch meant to get viewers used to watching the station before the 2017 launch.

“I can’t get the over the air signal in Cambridge,” one viewer wrote on the station’s Facebook page. “If they are not serving a major part of the market like Cambridge, then what about smaller communities? Are we supposed to just sit down like good sheeple and install their intrusive data hungry app? What about people who don’t HAVE smartphones and rely on the PUBLIC airwaves? U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren , Senator Edward J. Markey , HOW is this not an issue of public concern?”