Station group asks FCC to force carriage

Oct 29, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Venture Technologies Group has petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to close what it sees as a loophole that allows cable operators to import out-of-market signals and not carry low-power stations that have exclusive local affiliate agreements.
VTG owns low-power station WAWA-TV in Syracuse, N.Y., which started carrying UPN programming on Oct. 22. However, the station has been unable to secure carriage on the local Time Warner Cable system, which imports the signal from Boston UPN station WSBK-TV to the market instead.
Time Warner Cable has been importing the signal since June 1 because the market was left without a local UPN affiliate after Sinclair-owned WSYT-TV, Syracuse, switched to The WB in January 2001.
Time Warner Cable plans to oppose the petition, a spokesman said. “Our belief is that the application of syndicated exclusivity to low-power signals is inappropriate,” the spokesman said.
Paul Koplin, president of Los Angeles-based VTG, said, “We offered to provide compensation to AOL to carry WAWA” but had been unable to get on the Time Warner system in Syracuse, a market that has a 75 percent cable penetration rate. WAWA’s signal reaches 60 percent to 70 percent of the market, Mr. Koplin said.
WAWA, bought by VTG in May, had previously carried home shopping and “international” programming,” Mr. Koplin said. VTG owns and manages 18 TV stations; four of them are full-power UPN affiliates, two are independents, and the rest are low-power stations.
VTG’s petition, filed Oct. 24, asks the FCC to move expeditiously in the direction the regulatory agency had indicated was “appropriate” in its 1998 Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and to extend the exclusivity rights and network nonduplication protection rules that apply to full-power stations to all station types, including low-power, Class A and noncommercial stations.
Since August, long-running feuds involving low-power UPN affiliates WBQC-TV in Cincinnati and WBGT-TV in Rochester, N.Y., have ended with their signals being picked up by Time Warner cable systems in those cities.
WSBK brings with it Boston Bruins games and other non-UPN programming that “we’ve found our customers like,” said the Time Warner spokesman. “It’s obviously bad business to take something away from our customers that they like.”
UPN responded with the following statement: “UPN continues to have an excellent relationship with Time Warner as well as with Venture Technologies. We hope that they can resolve this dispute locally.”#