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Charter In Retrans Standoff With Belo Stations

12/22/2008 9:37 AM Eastern

Charter Communications customers may lose access to Belo Corp.’s stations in St. Louis, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Norfolk, Va., which are threatening to pull their signals after Dec. 31 in the latest year-end retransmission-consent disputes to come to light.

Belo’s KMOV-TV, the CBS affiliate in St. Louis, WFAA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Dallas/Ft. Worth, and WVEC-TV (ABC) in Norfolk are notifying viewers their signals may go dark on Charter systems in those markets.

“For more than two years KMOV has been trying to reach an agreement with Charter Cable to have KMOV’s signal available to Charter cable customers,” Belo's St. Louis station said in a message posted to its Web site. “We have made offers, Charter has not responded. We want Channel 4 on Charter, but effective December 31st, Charter will no longer carry KMOV.”

The station suggested viewers may switch to Dish Network, DirecTV or AT&T U-Verse TV to continue receiving CBS programming.

KMOV said in a newscast Friday that it was asking for 1 cent per Charter cable subscriber per day, which would total about $1.6 million a year, The St. Louis Dispatchreported. On its Web site, WFAA also claimed it is asking for “about a penny a day per subscriber.”

Steve Trippe, Charter St. Louis vice president and general manager, said in a statement the cable operator is actively negotiating with Belo to continue carrying KMOV’s signal but that the company is demanding “a significant amount of money for continued carriage.”

“Contrary to statements issued by KMOV, I can assure you that Charter has been actively negotiating with Belo Corporation,” he said. “Charter is in the business of providing a wide variety of quality programming to our customers, and negotiating fair and reasonable contracts with programmers for carriage of their services is what we do in the regular course of business.”

Trippe continued, “It is well documented that significant decreases in KMOV advertising sales has led Belo to look for new areas of revenue. This would seem like an attempt to offset a loss of advertising sales with new fees from Charter’s customers.” He also noted that “KMOV provides its programming to other consumers at no cost—free over the air or on the Internet.”

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