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 Wants FCC To Block TWC Ch. Swap
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.”