Massachusetts Senators Propose Bill to Force Charter Out-of-Market TV Carriage

Massachusetts Senators Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren, both Democrats, have introduced a bill that would force Charter to negotiate "in good faith" carriage of WCVB and WWLP in Berkshire County, Mass., which is in the Albany, N.Y. market.

"Specifically, the bill authorizes a cable operator (Charter) to transmit any station that was retransmitted to viewers on Dec. 1, 2016, including WWLP and WCVB, to subscribers in the Albany Designated Market Area (DMA), which includes Berkshire County, and forces Charter and the stations to negotiate carriage," Markey's office said.

“Berkshire County residents deserve programming that is relevant to their community and allows them to stay up-to-date on political affairs, follow their favorite sports teams, and keep up-to-date on important weather and emergency alerts,” said Senator Warren. “I’m glad to work with my Massachusetts colleagues on a bill to help to reintroduce local programming to the Berkshires.”

Markets that cross state lines have long been an issue that gets the attention of Congress, often when it involves access to their in-state sports team or of local news their constituents want access to. Cable operators — despite speculation that the likes of Comcast might want a national footprint via broadband access — have not really been interested in doing so. 

The bill does not alter non-duplication of syndicated exclusivity rights or affect copyright law.

According to the Berkshire Eagle, Charter's (Spectrum) system serving the Pittsfield, Mass., area south dropped WCVB Boston, telling the paper that WETN Albany was the "correct" ABC affiliate. Charter dropped WWLP Springfield a year ago, the paper said. Since the Berkshires are in the Albany TV market, Charter is not required to carry the Massachusetts stations.

“Spectrum is committed to bringing our customers the best products and programming," said Charter in a statement. "We know many of our local customers are interested in Massachusetts-focused programming, and we remain open-minded about a solution that doesn’t drive up costs or result in a negative viewing experience.”

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.