Cox Reopens Retrans Talks


Cox Cable of Northern Virginia and WJLA-TV last week resumed their stalled retransmission-consent talks, agreeing that the ABC affiliate and its sister cable service, NewsChannel 8, will remain on the 240,000-subscriber system until at least the end of the month.

Cox of Fairfax County, Va., and Allbritton Communications Co. have also agreed that if there is no resolution to their bitter dispute, Cox's subscribers will lose both Allbritton-owned channels after Oct. 31.

Earlier this month, contract talks between Cox and Allbritton erupted into a nasty public battle. On Oct. 1, Allbritton told the cable operator it would no longer have permission to carry WJLA as of midnight, Oct. 6.

WJLA's retransmission consent deal with Cox expired nearly two years ago, and had continued under monthly extensions while both sides worked on a renewal. Cox's deal for NewsChannel 8 expired Oct. 6.

The feud escalated Friday, Oct. 5, when Cox said it was refusing to drop WJLA, arguing that Allbritton had not given it proper notification — as mandated under federal regulations — when it ordered that the station be pulled. Cox maintained it would not be able to give its subscribers proper notice that they would be losing WJLA.

Allbritton responded by threatening that Cox would be liable for theft of service, copyright infringement and federal sanctions if it kept WJLA on past the Oct. 6 deadline.

But on the night of Oct. 5, both sides finally agreed to resume face-to-face talks, with Allbritton extending its contracts with Cox until the end of the month — and WJLA and NewsChannel 8 guaranteed to stay on cable until Oct. 31.