WB-UPN Richmond battle heats up

Another skirmish has erupted in The WB-UPN distribution war. The market is Richmond where you have to be a night owl or know how to program your VCR in order to watch The WB, which doesn't have its own local affiliate in the market.

And the company that owns the UPN affiliate there, Lockwood Broadcasting, is trying to keep it that way.
Acme Television, the group owner of WB stations has an option to buy out local parties that have applied for a construction permit to build a station on channel 52, licensed to Courtland, Va., in the Richmond market. Currently that channel is reserved for noncommercial use. After Acme secured its buyout option, Lockwood filed a competing application for the channel.

Lockwood's UPN affiliate in the market, WUPV(TV) is currently licensed to channel 65 in Ashland. And some observers are puzzled by Lockwood's move. The company recently completed an upgrade of its current facility, sources say. And, those sources note, Lockwood could potentially earn millions by selling its current channel in upcoming wireless auctions for the 700 mhz spectrum (chs. 60-69). But if it wins its application for ch. 52 and relocates, it wouldn't get anything for ch. 65, sources say.

But it would keep The WB, now seen in the wee hours on NBC affiliate WWBT(TV), from getting its own outlet in the market for a while longer. Ironically, UPN has recently charged Time Warner Cable with trying to restrain local competition by refusing to carry several of its low power TV affiliates on Time Warner systems in markets including Cincinnati, Rochester and Syracuse. Acme and Lockwood officials didn't return calls for comment last week.
- Steve McClellan