The broadcaster wants the commission to forbid Time Warner Cable from using its stations as substitute network programming in the cable operator’s retransmission consent battle with Smith Media.
Nexstar Broadcasting has risen to the aid of Smith Media in its ongoing retransmission consent dispute with Time Warner Cable in two upstate New York markets, asking the FCC to enjoin TWC from importing Nexstar signals into the two markets as substitutes for local Smith Media ones.
Denied retransmission consent by Smith for its affiliates in Utica, N.Y., and Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y., Time Warner Cable on Dec. 16 began importing affiliates of the same networks from other markets.
In Utica, Time Warner replaced Smith’s NBC affiliate WKTV with Nexstar’s WBRE Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa.
Meanwhile, in Burlington-Plattsburgh, it replaced ABC affiliate WVNY with Nexstar-managed WUTR. Smith operates WVNY through a shared services agreement. Also in the market, it replaced Fox affiliate WFFF with WNYF-CA Watertown, N.Y., which is owned by Amy Tuchler, of Northbrook, Ill.
TWC made the moves after failing to strike a retrans agreement with Smith, which has been demanding fees as part of the bargain.
In support of its call for an injunction, Nexstar charged that TWC had violated FCC rules.
“Time Warner’s use of WBRE and WUTR in its game of retransmission consent brinkmanship with Smith … without providing 30 days’ notice of any of the required parties is a flagrant violation of the Communications Act and the commission’s rules, and a disservice to its Utica and Plattsburgh subscribers, who are without a local news source in this dangerous weather time of year,” the petition says.
Because this is not the first time TWC has ignored the notification rules, the petition suggests, the FCC ought to allow Smith Media to immediately assert network non-duplication protection rights, which bar cable operators from importing stations affiliated with the same network as a local station. However, the rules allow the operator to continue importing signals for 60 days after notification.
“By allowing Smith … immediate nonduplication protection rights, Time Warner will have no incentive to import market-irrelevant networks affiliates such as WBRE and WUTR and every incentive to reach resolution to it retransmission consent dispute …, thereby restoring local news and other local programming to its Utica and Plattsburgh subscribers.”
Nexstar’s petition also says that Nexstar has advised TWC that the importation of its signals without proper notification is a breach of its own retrans agreement with the cable operator.