WAVY, Fox could go dark in dispute

Published 9:21 pm Monday, November 26, 2012

Charter Communications customers could lose the ability to watch some of their favorite programming on NBC and FOX this Thursday.

The company’s contract to carry WAVY-TV and WVBT-TV is set to expire Thursday at 5 p.m., and the two sides have been unable to negotiate a new contract as of Monday.

“For many years, we have been providing viewers with around-the-clock news, weather, traffic and public service announcements, as well as popular local and national programming,” Doug Davis, president and general manager of WAVY, wrote in an email. “Despite our ratings and service to the community, we are compensated far less than many cable networks that Charter subscribers may not even watch. The bottom line is Charter profits by including broadcast stations like ours in its line-up.”

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The dispute, WAVY has warned, could cause Charter customers to miss NFL football, television favorites like “Law and Order: SVU,” “30 Rock” and “The Office,” Christmas specials and more. “Glee” fans would miss their favorite show on WVBT.

A Charter spokeswoman called WAVY’s demands “outrageous.”

“WAVY is demanding an outrageous 150-percent increase in fees for continued carriage of their TV stations, and threatening to block viewing of their TV stations by Charter customers if their demands are not met,” Kristina Hill wrote in an email. “We’ve offered our top of market rate to WAVY, but they have refused. Charter customers have told us to take a firm stand against huge fee-increase demands such as this.”

WAVY posted a message to Charter customers on its website, encouraging folks who want to keep the channels to call Charter.

“Like any other business, it should pay fair market value for the ability to resell that programming to you,” the message reads. “It costs a substantial amount of money to produce local programming, bid for top-quality programming, invest in high-definition and make other upgrades to equipment and technology so we can deliver a superior product.”

In the message, WAVY encouraged viewers to watch the channels over-the-air by using an antenna if no agreement is reached. The same web page also carried contact information for Verizon, DISH and DirecTV.

But Charter believes folks will just turn to other stations for their local news, Hill wrote.

“Our customers understand that giving in to a 150-percent increase in fees is unacceptable,” she wrote. “They will watch local news on the other area TV stations … if necessary until a more reasonable fee is achieved.”