The Allbritton ABC affiliate in Washington says it had reached a retrans deal when the cable company replaced the station for an out-of-market affiliate.
Allbritton Communications Co. today filed an emergency petition with the FCC charging cable MSO Shentel Telecommunications Co. with “bad faith bargaining” as it dropped Allbritton’s ABC affiliate WJLA Washington (DMA 8) from carriage to 8,200 subscribers in Shenandoah County Va., on Dec 31, 2011.
According to Allbritton, “despite WJLA’s acceptance of Shentel’s offer on the table, Shentel reneged at the 11th hour, leaving its Washington market subscribers without ABC7 programming.”
“Shentel was apparently just stringing WJLA along while it was making a deal with an out-of-market ABC affiliate from Harrisonburg, [Va.]” said WJLA General Manager Bill Lord. “Shentel turned its back on its own customers, depriving them of strong local newscasts and popular syndicated programs.”
“We were able to reach retransmission agreements with every other distributor across our seven markets,” said Allbritton Communications Company SVP Jerald Fritz. “Shentel’s refusal to take ‘yes’ for an answer makes it the poster child for bad faith bargaining, and it constitutes an on-going, daily, per se violation of the FCC’s rules.”
WJLA asked the commission not tolerate the “outrageous display of bad faith.” The petition further asks that the FCC require Shentel to reengage in negotiations and accept its own proposal, bringing WJLA back to Shentel subscribers.
A Shentel spokesperson could not be reached by press time, but the company’s website has the following announcement, dated Dec. 23: “Shentel has tried to negotiate in good faith with the management of this television station to agree on a fair price for their programming. Negotiations have failed and this channel will go dark on January 1, 2012.”