There’s yet another squabble over retransmission fee deals that’s unfolded, and this one involves the two television stations owned by Dispatch Broadcast Group — the Columbus, Ohio-based operation run by the Wolfe family since 1929.
Dispatch’s stations are NBC WTHR-13 in Indianapolis and CBS WBNS-10 in Columbus, Ohio.
They’ve had some tough negotiations with AT&T regarding retrans fees for U-Verse and DirecTV carriage, and now the telecommunications giant has been forced to drop WTHR and WBNS from its lineups in the Indianpolis and Columbus DMAs, respectively, after it failed to reach a new agreement with Dispatch.
In a message appearing on the WTHR website that was mirrored on the WBNS website, Dispatch explained, “WTHR has completed numerous retransmission agreements in the past 12 months at fair market rates without any service interruption. Unfortunately, after offering an extension last Friday (9/1) to hopefully reach a fair market deal, the deadline to reach a fair agreement with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse has passed, resulting in the interruption of service for WTHR viewers who watch our stations on those systems. We will continue to work toward a fair agreement with DirecTV and AT&T U-verse and hope to resolve this situation as soon as possible.”
It noted that the stations were available on other cable and satellite services and via an over-the-air signal.
It also answered two key queries in a “Frequently Asked Questions” note:
If your signal is free, why are you charging DirecTV and AT&T U-verse?
A: Local TV stations invest tens of millions of dollars each year to produce programming and maintain the systems to transmit that programming. Congress passed a law many years ago requiring cable companies, and later satellite companies, to negotiate compensation and other terms with local TV stations when they want to resell those stations as a part of their pay TV packages. In addition, our networks seek payment from these fees, with the expectation that we are paid fair market value.
Q: When will this be settled?
A: Our sincere hope is to have a reasonable and fair deal in place as soon as possible. You have our promise that we will continue to make this a top priority. WTHR has completed numerous retransmission agreements in the past 12 months at fair market rates without any service interruption.
FROM THE RBR+TVBR ARCHIVES:
January 5, 2012