United Wants FCC To Block TWC Ch. Swap

The broadcaster joins Nexstar in asking the commission to forbid Time Warner Cable from using United's Fox affiliate WNYF-CA Watertown, N.Y. as substitute network programming in the cable operator's retransmission consent battle with Smith Media in Burlington, Vt.-Plattaburgh, N.Y.

United Communications Corp., the owner of WNYF-CA Watertown, N.Y., has joined Nexstar Broadcasting in asking the FCC to stop Time Warner Cable from importing its signals into the Burlington, Vt.-Plattsburgh, N.Y., market as substitutes for local signals lost in a retransmission consent dispute.

United “is an innocent pawn in Time Warner’s battle with a third-party broadcaster, Smith Media,” in the market, United says in an “emergency enforcement complaint.”

TWC had been in retrans talks with Smith to carry its stations in Burlington-Plattsburgh as well as Utica, N.Y. But after those negotiations collapsed and TWC was forced to drop the local Smith stations, it began importing stations with the same network affiliations from adjacent markets.

In Burlington-Plattsburgh, TWC replaced Smith-owned Fox affiliate WFFF with WNYF. Also, it replaced ABC affiliate WVNY with Nexstar-managed WUTR Utica, N.Y.

Meanwhile, in Utica, Time Warner replaced Smith’s NBC affiliate WKTV with Nexstar’s WBRE Wilkes Barre-Scranton, Pa.

The United petition requests that the FCC block TWC from importing WNYF into Burlington-Plattsburgh for having “willfully and knowingly violated the commission’s subscriber notification requirements” with the signal switch.


It was the same argument that Nexstar made is asking the FCC to stop the importation of its signals into the two markets.

United also asks that the FCC grant Smith’s WFFF network nonduplication protection. Under the so-called non-dupe rule, cable operators may not import a signal of a network affiliate into market if there is a local affiliate with exclusive market rights.

“The policy underlying the network nonduplication rules holds that the local service of network affiliates should be supported through their receiving credit for network viewing that takes place within their natural markets, as established by viewing off-air,” the petition says.

“Smith cannot reasonably be expected to sustain the production of local news and information programming for these areas if it is denied access to the local cable system.”

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Manuel Morales says:

December 31, 2010 at 11:56 am

Did they file for a injunction of any sort in State court to enforce they retrans agreement with TW? The FCC filing only deals with any FCC rules TW may have violated. They State Court filing would seek to enforce the terms of United’s retrans agreement (persuming they have one) with TW. Hopefully this retrans agreement contains provisions that would prohibit TW from retransmitting the United Comm Fox signal outside of the Watertown DMA (because as United Comm should know FOX affiliation agreements don’t allow for an affiliate to grant retrans outside of their DMA). I’m more interested in the State Court action directly related to a breach of any retrans agreement between United and TW (TW and Nexstar too). If TW is retransmitting these signals outside the terms of the retrans agreement they violated that agreement and also could be on the hook for willful violations of the Fed Copyright Act. Something tells me TW thinks they have both United Comm and Nexstar on the retrans agreement angle though.

    Kathryn Miller says:

    December 31, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    I think you would benefit by an understanding of cable carriage issues; copyright, fees, and even the nature of these contracts. Not knowing whether there is an agreement in place, or what type of agreement is in place, means you aren’t even qualified for punditry.

Manuel Morales says:

December 31, 2010 at 11:57 am

Also, I believe this is a bad political move by TW to pull this with a very small broadcaster. Pick your battles TW.

jeff lee says:

December 31, 2010 at 12:17 pm

New revenue stream for broadcasters…..lawsuits.