Q. When will the blackout between Charter and Northwest Broadcasting end? For goodness sakes, it’s been over a month now and I am still missing my local Fox station on Charter! — Ron, Syracuse, New York.
Ron, as you know, Charter has been without 11 Northwest-owned local stations now for six weeks due to a dispute between the two companies over carriage fees.
The stations are:
KSWT-TV, the CBS affiliate in Yuma, Arizona; KYMA-TV, the NBC affiliate in Yuma; KIEM-TV, the NBC affiliate in Eureka, California; KVIQ, the CBS affiliate in Eureka, KAYU-TV, the Fox affiliate in Spokane, Washington; WSYT-TV, the Fox affiliate in Syracuse, New York; WICZ-TV, the Fox affiliate in Binghamton, New York; KMVU-TV, the Fox affiliate in Medford, Oregon; KFFX-TV, the Fox affiliate in Yakima, Washington; KAYU-TV, the Fox affiliate in Spokane, Washington; and KPVI-TV, the NBC affiliate in Idaho Falls, Idaho.
The amazing thing about this fee fight is that two affected towns — Yuma, Arizona and Jackson, Wyoming — have issued warnings to Charter that it’s in violation of their franchise agreements because they failed to notify subscribers 30 days in advance that they could lose the stations. (Charter posted the notice after the stations were pulled.)
The Yuma city council has even told Charter that it will issue a fine of $846 for every day of the blackout. And the Jackson town council has filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission.
I don’t ever recall one, much less two, local governments getting so involved (and being so punitive) in a carriage fight.
But Charter seems unfazed by the two city directives, barely commenting on either. This would suggest that the nation’s second largest cable operator is prepared to fight this indefinitely.
I don’t know if Yuma will enforce its $864 daily fine, but if it does, Charter must believe that it will be worth it compared to paying what Northwest is asking for to carry its local signals.
The only encouraging sign in this war is that Northwest CEO Brian Brady, who issued a handful of statements blasting Charter and its CEO, Tom Rutledge, after the dispute began, has been quiet in the last few weeks. That might suggest that talks between Northwest and Charter have gotten serious and Brady doesn’t want to muddy the waters by publicly criticizing Rutledge again.
Ron, I feel your pain, and I will keep you and all of our readers posted if anything changes here.
— Phillip Swann