Journal Broadcast Stations Go Dark on TWC Systems in Retrans Dispute

Six Outlets Disconnect in Four States, Following Conclusion of FCC Sweeps Rule

Failing to reach a new retranmission-consent accord, six Journal Broadcast Group stations went dark on Time Warner Cable systems serving four markets early Thursday morning.

Journal Broadcast stations in Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisc. and Omaha, Neb. were disconnected at midnight (CT) on July 25, according to the cable operator. Stations serving Palm Springs, Calif., were also slated to go black at midnight in the Pacific time zone.

The blackout came as Time Warner Cable and CBS Corp. reached a second extension covering 13 of the broadcaster’s-owned stations in eight markets served by the MSO, as well as cable services Showtime, CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel that are part of its portfolio.

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 (NBC) in Milwaukee; KMTV (CBS) in Omaha; and KMIR (NBC) and KPSE (MNT) in Palm Springs –- through midnight (CT) on July 10.

But even as they continued their distribution discussions, the parties couldn’t forge a new deal, with the station owner then retaining 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.

The MSO, noting that Journal Broadcast pulled its signals, issued the following statement early Thursday morning: “Time Warner Cable will work hard to bring the above channels back to our lineup, but the decision rests with Journal. By law, Time Warner Cable cannot carry Journal’s channels without their permission.  Journal is withholding permission while demanding a huge increase in their compensation.

“At Time Warner Cable, we continue to take a stand against such unreasonable fee increases because we don’t think it’s fair for customers who receive Journal programming through us to pay so much more, while receiving no incremental programming value,” the MSO said. “And, it’s particularly unreasonable to demand such a huge price increase while Journal’s channels remain available for free over the air; and many of their individual shows— both national and local—are available for free online.”

The station group responded thusly to the proceedings:  “The Journal Broadcast Group is deeply disappointed to announce that Time Warner Cable has put aside the needs of our local viewers and taken our stations off their systems serving the Milwaukee, Green Bay/Appleton, Omaha and Palm Springs DMAs.  By refusing to return to the bargaining table, Time Warner Cable has jeopardized the opportunity for viewers to watch the award-winning local news and weather coverage, NBC programming, Green Bay Packers pre-season football and Olympics in our markets.  We stand ready to return to the bargaining table to resolve our differences and resume serving the Time Warner Cable customers in our markets.

“Our offer is in line with the fair-market value already being paid to stations across the country,” the statement continued.  “Until this unfortunate take down action by Time Warner Cable, Journal Broadcast Group had successfully negotiated more than 140 contracts with other distributors without any interruption in service.”