TWC Customers File Lawsuit over Retrans Disconnect with Milwaukee Station

Plaintiffs Seek Class-Action Status over Disconnect with Journal Broadcast's WTMJ

A trio of Time Warner Cable customers has filed a lawsuit against the cable operator over its retransmission-consent dispute with WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee.

Filed on Aug. 8 in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, the suit seeks unspecified damages for breach of contract, and a day's credit for each customer for every day service was interrupted more than four hours. The plaintiffs also are looking to elevate the legal pursuit to class-action status on behalf of all affected Time Warner Cable customers.

WTMJ-TV is one of six of stations owned by Journal Broadcast Group that has been off of Time Warner Cable’s systems since July 25 in a retransmission-consent battle. One apparent casualty of the impasse: The MSO's customers will be shut out from the station's presentation of the Aug. 9 NFL preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals.

Journal Communications owns the Journal Broadcast and the Journal Sentinel, which first reported on the legal proceedings.

Time Warner Cable officials said they had not yet received the suit and could not respond to its assertions.

A TWC spokesman said the parties have had ongoing discussions, but “no meaningful progress” has been made. Journal Broadcast officials could not be reached by press time.

The MSO has said that Journal Broadcast wants a 200% increase in fees for the retransmission of its stations’ signals, while the media company puts the increase at what amounts to pennies per day.

Meanwhile, it appears as if WTMJ’s coverage of tonight's NFL preseason game between the Packers-Cardinals from Lambeau Field is going to go missing for TWC area subscribers. However, Packers’ proponents in the Milwaukee DMA will be able to watch the exhibition contest – albeit it in Spanish -- on the digital station, WYTU-LD, the Telemundo affiliate in the area.

TWC said it has been making its subscribers aware of this option via on-air, Web site, and email messages, as well as indicating they can watch WTMJ by picking up antennas it is distributing. The contest will also be encored by NFL Network.

Other Journal Broadcast stations in Green Bay, Wisc., Omaha, Neb. and Palm Springs, Calif. also 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.

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 the MSO’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 on July 24. The stations’ attendant sub-channels, though, went dark early on July 11.