Retransmission battle looms on Congress


Allbritton Communications says it is offering MVPDs Cox and RCN below market rates for carriage of its two Washington DC media properties, ABC WJLA-TV and cable-only journalistic outlet NewsChannel 8 – but fears it is headed for a disruption of service on 1/1/12 when the current retransmission agreement expires.

Members of Congress could have a front row seat for this one, depending on whether or not they are forced to remain in town over the holidays, or in the event the dispute drags into 2012.

WJLA warned its viewers:

“Despite our tireless attempts to reach a fair deal with Cox and RCN, it has become apparent that the cable operators do not value our programming as much as you do. Unless these systems begin to see that same value, unfortunately, WJLA and NewsChannel 8 will likely come off of the Cox and RCN systems on January 1, 2012.

“We have made every effort to protect our viewers throughout negotiations with Cox and RCN. Your interest is at the very forefront of every negotiation we undertake, and our dealings with these two operators have been no different. Indeed, we have offered both Cox and RCN a below market rate in order to keep our programming available to you, but they have refused our offers. Ultimately, it is Cox and RCN’s decision whether or not you see your favorite programs. There is no question that our viewers value our programming. That includes ABC 7 and NewsChannel 8’s award winning news, weather and local programming, as well as your favorite ABC shows like “Modern Family,” “Castle,” “Revenge,” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“We deeply regret that Cox and RCN viewers will not be able to view ABC 7 and NewsChannel 8 programming as they usually do. It bears noting that ABC7 and NewsChannel 8 are entirely unaffected on Comcast, DIRECTV, Dish and many other major cable providers, and as always, ABC7 is available entirely free over-the-air. You can also stream NewsChannel 8 on the web at”

RBR-TVBR observation: The interesting thing here is that Washington is one of the few DMAs that actually have a full-service local cable-only local news channel, but it doesn’t come from a cable company and its carriage is threatened by allegedly intransigent MVPDs. When it comes down to providing local info, most MVPDs strike out.

In Washington, a casual observer might think that the cable companies could argue that they don’t need broadcast since they have a cable-only news channel, but this situation exposes the truth in Washington – that the cable companies still rely on broadcasters, even for cable-only local content. It leaves the cablers with no local argument whatsoever.

Local TV is just about the only source for local news and information on television on the channel lineup of the vast majority of MVPDs, and that is why it is in the public interest that the service is protected.