WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, is throwing a Hail Mary to Packers fans in Wisconsin who live near the state’s border with Minnesota that would guarantee they have access to their Green Bay team each Sunday.
Baldwin’s proposal, called the Go Pack Go Act of 2019, would require all cable, satellite and video providers to offer Wisconsin subscribers access to in-state broadcasts. Under current federal regulations, when Vikings and Packers games are broadcast on the same network at the same time, roughly 400,000 Wisconsinites receive Vikings rather than Packers games.
Three Packers games will be affected by the federal regulations this year: last Sunday at home versus Denver, Dec. 8 at home versus Washington and Dec. 29 on the road versus Detroit.
“For a few years now, I’ve heard from many of my constituents in Wisconsin/Minnesota border counties who are stuck watching the Vikings games some weeks and can’t watch the Packers games,” Baldwin said in an email. “I introduced the Go Pack Go Act because I think Packers fans across our state should be able to watch every game.”
The proposal, which extends beyond the NFL to include local news, sports and weather programming, affects 13 counties in primarily the Duluth-Superior and Twin Cities media markets including Ashland, Barron, Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas, Dunn, Florence, Iron, Pierce, Polk, Sawyer, St. Croix and Washburn. Viewers in those counties now can only watch the Packers if they subscribe to a satellite service.
Baldwin’s bill would also allow residents in the affected counties to have both Minnesota and Wisconsin broadcasts but they would have to pay a higher fee. Current regulations largely prevent cable and satellite providers from using network affiliates from other TV markets.
Baldwin proposed the measure last year, but it never was brought to a vote.
A 2014 change in federal law allowed local governments and TV stations to file a petition to the Federal Communications Commission for in-state signals to be carried for free on satellite TV.
The first successful petition under the new law was filed in September 2016 in Wausau County. Last month, Washburn County collected signatures to send to the Federal Communications Commission so local DIRECTV and DISH channels from Eau Claire and La Crosse could be added to their channels; the FCC has not yet ruled on the request.