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Herring Takes Stand In Wealth TV Program Complaint Case

WealthTV president Charles Herring took the stand Wednesday to try to convince a Federal Communications Commission adminstrative law judge that major cable operators had discriminated against the network.

Herring's testimony, which came in an FCC hearing room filled with mostly cable operator laywers, had to be redrafted after the defendents --Comcast, Cox, Time Warner Cable, and Bright House -- complained that it was essentially hearsay.

Both sides agreed on the new version, though cable attorneys occasionally objected to testimony straying into hearsay, with the judge generally agreeing.

Judge Richard Sippel frequently cautioned Herring to stick with what he could say from personal knowledge, with Herring saying he would try. "Try hard," the judge advised.

Herring's testimony was that the cable operators had not given the channel "fair consideration," after it was pitched to them on what he considered very attractive terms, including at no charge initially, with revenue sharing and "reasonable rates" going forward.

In early testimony, he cited the failure of a Cox system in Wichita to carry the channel after the local general manager there had expressed interrest in it. The judge asked if he had ever had a contract for carriage and Herring said no, but he said he thought Cox corporate had killed the deal. The judge warned him that he did not have direct knowledge of that, only that the channel had not got carried.

He also said that a plan to program the multicast channel of CBS affiliate KLAS Las Vegas with WealthTV in order to get carriage on a Cox system there fell through after the station approached Cox. But he also said that the station's contract with Cox did not provide for multicast carriage of a channel that was not owned by KLAS.

Herring said the station general manager said there was a second reason for not doing the deal: CBS was planning a business channel --this was back in 2006-- that would ultimately replace WealthTV, and that he thought viewers would be unhappy when that happened.

Herring also complained of Comcast's lack of carriage, even after his team of highly-paid salespeople  --$100,000-$250,0000-a-year executives, he pointed out -- had undertaken a nationwide campaign to pitch it to Comcast, the nation's top cable operator.

Herring Braodcasting, which owns WealthTV, argues that the reason its channel was not carried is that the operators were favoring Mojo, a now-defunct channel in which they had an interest.

Charles Herring was scheduled for cross-examination Wednesday afternoon. The cable operators have a dozen and a half witnesses, so the trial will likely extent through next week.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.