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The Ethics of Snagging Someone's Affiliation

I had an intriguing chat with Paul McTear, CEO of Raycom, that appears in our new issue, with the longer talk on the web (subscription required, sorry). We spoke about tornadoes and homegrown shows and broadcaster spectrum and other topics of interest within Raycom, and also got into the network-affiliate spats that have been the dominant local TV story this summer.

McTear spoke about how successful launching an ABC affiliate on one of Raycom’s station’s .2 channels has been (in Albany, Georgia), and said he was in talks about launching another Big Four network on a subchannel, while stressing that those are in (smaller) markets where a network is not currently represented (in other words, a “short” market).

That got us talking about a few stations launching Fox on their subchannels, after Fox and the existing affiliate severed ties over retrans sharing. No group has been more affected by Fox playing hardball with affiliates than Nexstar, and I’ve heard a few people out there saying it was unfair to CEO Perry Sook, often cited as a pioneer in terms of getting retrans cash out of subscription TV operators, that another broadcaster would grab an affiliation from Nexstar.

I asked McTear if it was a violation of the broadcasting brotherhood to do so, or if it was, simply, business.

Here’s how he responded:

I think every circumstance is going to be different — I don’t think there’s a summary answer to that that fits all circumstances. You need to understand the market, you need to understand the circumstances, you need to hear from both sides as to why it didn’t work out before you consider accepting that business opportunity.

We haven’t been approached on any of those kinds of deals; the only deals we’re actually talking to networks about right now are in markets where they have no specific coverage.