Blog Archive

Friday, October 24, 2008

Broadcast Brouhaha Breaks Out

For the last few weeks the EPB and the broadcast television stations have been in a high stakes game of chess on your behalf. This match is between the EPB Cable Television operation and the broadcast stations that make up about 16 channels of our basic service. Every three years our contracts which cover the permissions for us to carry the broadcast stations (the ones that are actual television stations like WBKO, WNKY, WAVE, WLKY, etc.) expire and must be renegotiated. Historically that has been a relatively simple process wherein the broadcasters ask for certain channel positions and other minor concessions in return for giving us permission to carry their signals. This year, just when we are all being rocked by the turmoil in our economy, we are seeing a new resolve from all of the broadcasters to also ask us to pay them large amounts of money for this permission! You can read more about this issue here.

While we have yet to get formal requests from all of the stations we presently carry, it appears that all but the local low-power station (channel 18 from Scottsville) and the KET/PBS non-profit stations, are going to ask us to pay them large amounts if we wish to continue carrying their programming on our cable system. This is truly bizarre and, considering the strife in our economy, exceedingly poor timing for them to start showing this level of greed. While anyone can still put up an antenna and pick up these broadcasts for free, if we put up that antenna and facilitate the delivery of the signal though our cable system, they feel we should pay about $44,000 per year, per station! Since we presently have nine of those stations, we are talking about a new expense of over $390,000 per year. Obviously, we simply cannot absorb that cost. Something will have to give.

To make matters worse, the two broadcast stations in Bowling Green have used their new digital transmission capability to expand from two broadcast affiliations to five. WNKY is an NBC and a CBS affiliate. WBKO is an ABC, Fox, and CW affiliate. That is important because the networks have been busy working with the affiliates to keep us from being able to shop for the best deal we can find from a broadcast affiliate for each station. It is really too complicated to fully explain here, but the Bowling Green stations have also been granted special rights to either force us to pay their price or they can keep us from getting programming from Louisville or Nashville to replace their programming through “network non-duplication” rights. In other words, if we don’t like their price and we want to drop their programming in response, they can prevent us from importing another signal from NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox, and CW, we have to get it from the Bowling Green broadcasters, period. In effect, even though our economy is collapsing, largely due to the fact that several large banking institutions have become so big and powerful that they are de facto unregulated monopolies, our lawmakers are allowing these broadcast stations to also establish unregulated monopolies! We appear to be in a position wherein we are forced to pay the fees they are requesting unless we want to offer a cable service with no, or very limited, feeds from any of the major broadcast networks. We all know that is just not acceptable to our customers.

Further, even if we cave in and pay WBKO and WNKY their “ransom”, we will still face the wrath of our customers if we raise rates to pay off WBKO and WNKY as well as the fees demanded by the Nashville and Louisville broadcast stations. On the other hand, we face unhappy customers if they lose all of the Nashville and Louisville stations. Thus we are facing a no-win scenario, all because the broadcasters and the legislators and regulators have agreed to put us in this situation. Keep watching here for updates as this “discussion” rages on. We would love to hear your feedback on this matter, just sign in and leave your comments here.


R.T. McCann said...

I've been watching some TV since the early 50's and I've seen some good and some bad but I have thought for several years now that what we are getting at the present time is mostly mundane, senseless dribble. "Reality" has replaced professionalism. Horror, mayhem, and violence has become the norm and it's getting worse by the season. The broadcasters are always pushing the envelope to take gross one step further and for one I think it's gone far enough. For what we are getting today, half of what we are currently paying is more than I think it's worth.

Billy Ray said...

I largely agree with you. However, the broadcast channels also carry news from the region. That is where we tune for weather information and local sports. I'm afraid simply throwing the lot of them out sounds like what they deserve but would not make anyone happy in the long run.