Legislation

Thanks For Helping Us Make A Better BMTD!

Since 1979, Blue Mountain Translator District has been funding by a unique system of service charges for use of signals, rather than ad valorem property taxes or assessments. District boundaries were drawn to include rural properties in range of signals, and all property owners are required to declare annually whether signals are viewed. Signals can be viewed for a voter-approved $100 service charge, or an exemption can be requested. If a reply is not received, the charge is enrolled on a property owner’s tax statement as a lien the following year. Cities could not be annexed into BMTD’s boundaries, so a property is only liable for the charge if BMTD discovers an antenna following a physical inspection. This system of revenue is historically volatile, and BMTD has experienced regular funding shortfalls. In 2019, BMTD proposed and successfully advocated for the passage of the first serious reforms to translator district operations in 20 years.

Senate Bill 394 – Passed!

Because BMTD’s revenue is market-driven rather than mandatory, competitive upgrades and additional services are necessary to raise additional funds. SB 394, sponsored by Senator Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) and Representatives Lynn Findley (R-Vale) and Greg Barreto (R-Cove), has three key provisions:

  • Transmit local emergency alerts on TV signals, upgrading the value of our service to new viewers;
  • Create a local TV station and fund operations by selling ads; and
  • Upgrade to Next-Generation TV (ATSC 3.0) standards, which provide additional revenue-generating data delivery opportunities.

BMTD will be implementing these changes at various points over the next decade. The emergency alerts provision goes into effect in 2020, and we are grateful to the Wildhorse Foundation for a generous grant to purchase equipment necessary for local emergency alert transmission.

Our target launch date for the local channel is fall 2020, pending FCC approval and available capital to purchase necessary equipment. We hope to broadcast local government meetings, high school sports, community events, news, and other locally-generated content, with an added goal of supporting local content creators and community organizations who broadcast with us. An additional revenue opportunity involves syndicating locally-generated content through the region and country. Check out results from our survey about preferred local channel content here.

The infrastructure required to operate three low-power TV translator sites is expansive, and BMTD uses our facilities and resources to help other entities in the region broadcast TV and radio, manage natural resources, and provide broadband. Technical partnerships accounted for 29% of BMTD’s revenue in 2018-2019. Next-Generation TV transmitters installed over the next generation will not only provide higher-quality signals, they have additional data delivery applications:

  • Deliver broadband,
  • Augment 4G and 5G cellular networks,
  • Deliver and update software for developers,
  • Control in-car navigation systems for autonomous vehicles,
  • Provide primary or backup field communications services for first responders,
  • Provide smart-agriculture tech data delivery,
  • Broadcast radio stations,
  • Deliver advanced emergency alerts with location-targeted information including evacuation routes, live/canned update footage from local officials, and pictures,
  • And much, much more! (See minutes 15:51-19:26)

Senate Bill 393 – Passed!

Senate Bill 393 has 3 key provisions: allowing financial supporters who live in incorporated cities to serve on BMTD’s Board, allowing voters in cities to consider annexation into the District, and exempting state properties from district service charges. Currently, BMTD may not include incorporated cities into its boundaries, so 10 cities in Baker and Union Counties are blank spots in the middle of our map. As a result, financial supporters of BMTD who live within city limits are not permitted to serve on our board of Directors. Additionally, BMTD is currently required to physically inspect properties in these cities prior to sending a service charge letter, but we do not possess the resources to continuously search 10 cities to find new antennas. Following a survey of cities in Baker and Union Counties in 2018, BMTD sent over 320 service charge letters to the owners of properties where an antenna was discovered. SB 393 will solve the problem of preventing members in cities from serving on our board, and allow city voters to weigh in on limiting our administrative difficulties related to billing properties in their communities.

Hearings

Below are hearings regarding BMTD legislation that occurred during the 2019 session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly. Special thanks to Senators Cliff Bentz (Ontario) and Bill Hansell (Athena), and Representatives Lynn Findley (Vale) and Greg Barreto (Cove) for helping in the Capitol. Additional thanks go local entities that supported legislation, including Baker and Union Counties; the cities of Baker City, Elgin, Haines, Imbler, Island City, and North Powder; the Rural Fire Protection Districts of Haines, Imbler, Keating, La Grande, Medical Springs, North Powder, and Union; Union County Chamber of Commerce; and Union County Farm Bureau.