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Parties Remain Resolute in Journal Broadcast, TWC Retrans Impasse

Station Group's Outlets Have Been Dark on MSO's Systems Since July 25 8/05/2013 10:37 AM Eastern

 

While Time Warner Cable’s battle with CBS has been garnering much of the attention, the cable operator’s disconnect with Journal Broadcast Group is now approaching two weeks, with the parties seemingly entrenched in their positions.

Journal Broadcast stations in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisc., Omaha, Neb. and Palm Springs, Calif. have been off of Time Warner Cable systems since midnight on July 25, when a second contract extension expired and the station owner pulled its signals.

Since then, there evidently been little movement in the parties’ dispute over the value of the retransmission of those signals.

“We have been ready and willing to negotiate with them before and after the blackout; they don’t show any sign of willingness to negotiate other than to reiterate the same exact proposal they have sent for several weeks,” said Time Warner Cable.

Journal Broadcast said that the characterization that we’ve failed to engage is "a little disingenuous,” said a spokesman for the broadcaster. “Time Warner Cable’s proposals have headed backward.”

Time Warner Cable has said Journal Broadcast wants a 200% increase in fees. The stations put the increase amounts to pennies a day.

The station group maintains that TWC has been more focused on the dispute with CBS than outlets, a contention the MSO strenuously denies.

A flashpoint could come on Friday, August. 9 as WTMJ, the NBC affiliate in Milwaukee, is scheduled to televise the NFL preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals. Unlike some other markets, Milwaukee residents cannot avail themselves of Aereo as an alternate delivery mechanism during the disconnect. Aereo uses remote antennas to deliver TV station signals over the Web.

Journal Broadcast and Time Warner Cable’s retransmission-consent agreement was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on June 30, but the broadcaster granted an extension for the signals for six of its stations in Time Warner Cable’s footprint -- WGBA (NBC) and WACY (MNT) in Green Bay; WTMJ in Milwaukee; KMTV (CBS) in Omaha; and KMIR (NBC) and KPSE (MNT) in Palm Springs -- through midnight (CT) on July 10.

The station owner then retained the position for its outlets via the so-called sweeps rule. Under FCC retransmission-consent rules, local commercial television stations cannot be removed during a sweeps period, which in this case ended at midnight on July 24. The stations’ attendant sub-channels, though, went dark early on July 11.

Journal Broadcast executives have met with Wisconsin state senate president Mike Ellis (R-Neehah), apprising him of the entire retransmission consent landscape, according to the station owner. Ellis wrote a letter to Time Warner Cable, asking for a rebate for impacted customers.

TWC’s response noted that stations "are sold as a package of channels. We change our programming packages from time to time, including by adding new networks to the lineup. It is not our practice to issue credits for individual networks that are offered in a package. We regret that Journal's unreasonable demands have forced us to remove [WTMJ] from your lineup, and are doing everything we can to hold the line on outrageous demands, especially for programming that is available free over the air.”

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