Local TV Stations Win Carriage Disputes

How often do broadcasters fight for a higher channel position on the cable dial? WXTV Paterson, N.J., did, and won.

The Federal Communications Commission Monday told cable carrier Patriot Media to put WXTV on channel 41, its over-the-air channel, not ch. 21, where it has been slotted. The station asked the cable company for the change in its last periodic election for must carry. So long as a station does not elect to negotiate a fee or other compensation for its carriage (retransmission consent), it can ask that a cable company carry it, and in the same channel position as its on-air position. The company must comply absent technical barriers or procedural problems, neither of which the FCC found.

Broadcasters actually went two for two in carriage disputes resolved by the FCC. The commission also told EchoStar it has to help viewers find KTVN Pine Bluff, Ark.

The station is carried on a wing satellite, which is not the case with other broadcasters in the market, and thus viewers need a second dish to see it. The FCC has already found that EchoStar’s two-dish policy represents discrimination and has required it to remedy the situation in individual markets. Saying EchoStar hasn’t done enough in Pine Bluff, it has given the company 30 days to explain how it will remedy the problem. Those could include EchoStar automatically providing the second dish to its subscribers or better informing them that "they are not receiving all the local stations that they are paying for.

Although KTVN would have preferred the FCC to require it to be carried on the same dish as everyone else. The challenge of the two-dish solution is ongoing, and the commission said the station would need to wait until that proceeding was resolved.

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.