WVEC/Charter debate a matter of dollars

Published 11:35 pm Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Negotiations are continuing between WVEC-TV and Charter Communications to carry the ABC affiliate’s signal into the new year, a WVEC official said Tuesday.

“The negotiations are taking place on the corporate level,” said Jim Berman, president and general manager of WVEC-TV13. “We’re still hopeful that something can be worked out.”

WVEC announced Monday that Charter will no longer provide its subscribers with WVEC’s signal because the two have been unable to reach an agreement on the terms. The move follows two years of negotiations, Berman said.

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Hampton Roads is not the only market affected by the possible loss of service, according to a message on the automated phone service at Charter’s headquarters.

“Charter is in negotiations with various broadcasters to carry their signals on our systems past Dec. 31, 2008,” the message said. “We have no intentions of dropping the stations involved in the negotiations, but broadcasters must give Charter permission to carry their signals. Any anticipated signal loss is a decision by the broadcasters, not Charter.”

Anthony Pope, vice president and general manager of operations for Charter, did not return repeated calls seeking comment.

The negotiations are focused on WVEC’s request to be paid for Charter to carry its signal, which is not an unusual situation, Berman said.

“Cable companies pay stations for the services that are provided,” he said. “We understand that Charter pays $3.65 to ESPN per month per subscriber. We get nothing.”

Berman said WVEC is requesting 30 cents per month per subscriber.

“The reality is, we simply want our fair share of that,” Berman said. “This is something that should have been resolved a long time ago.”

Berman said the possible loss of signal would be unfortunate, but he wanted to let viewers know about the impending cut as soon as possible.

Berman noted there are other ways to get the WVEC signal, including DirecTV and Dish Network – both companies that are paying WVEC to carry the signal, he added. Also, WVEC’s signal continues to be available over-the-air to viewers with a digital television purchased after May 2007. Anyone with an older television or a television without a built-in digital tuner will need to obtain a converter box by Feb. 17 in order to receive the over-the-air broadcasts.

“We’re hopeful the company can work this out with Charter,” Berman said. “Our viewers expect to have WVEC on their cable system.

“It’s obviously going to be a glaring omission.”