Blog Archive

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Broadcast Stations and Your Cable Bill

Gather around Glasgow folks. We have some serious business to discuss regarding your cable television service. Between now and the end of 2014, we must negotiate new agreements with the broadcast stations, like WBKO, WNKY, WTVF, WHAS, WMYO, and WDRB . These stations have all decided that we cannot continue carrying their signal unless we pay them a sizable sum for permission. It is the size of that sum that we need to discuss. They are asking for staggering increases in the monthly licensing fees. Our Programming Committee, consisting of 5 of your fellow citizens appointed by our Board of Directors, is deeply involved in negotiating the lowest possible rates and best option for our customers. Here’s our dilemma: We either pay them or stop carrying their signals.

We have now received notices of rate increases ranging from 170% up to 1,000%. If we keep the channels as they currently stand, based upon these demands we would all see our rates increase approximately $7.60 per month just to pay for these channels. And make no mistake, this is not applicable to just Glasgow EPB customers, this applies to every cable company across the nation as they negotiate with the broadcast stations. We are proud to still offer the lowest cable rates in the United States (yes, you did read that correctly – Glasgow enjoys the lowest cable rates in the United States), and we will make every effort to continue to do so.

We predict that most of our customers would say, “Drop them!” when seeing this huge increase based on the broadcasters’ demands. That would be fine with us; however, there is a very sharp hook in that bait. Dropping WHAS and WTVF would leave us without our long-enjoyed access to the Louisville and Nashville news sources that we have relied upon for years. Dropping WBKO might leave us with no ABC, no FOX, and no CW programming at all, as they have the legal right to refuse us access to other stations that duplicate their service.

By now you are likely shaking your head in amazement that these conditions exist in our country. After all, can’t we still put up an antenna and get these stations over the air for free? For the Bowling Green stations, that is largely still true. For the Louisville and Nashville broadcasters, that likely would not work anymore. The conversion to digital broadcast technology in 2009 rendered signal acquisition by a homeowner practically impossible if you live more than 50 miles from the transmitter. That makes Nashville and Louisville stations a big problem. These stations, who use the taxpayer-owned airwaves for free, are allowed to set their prices at whatever rate they desire, simply because a cable company puts up a very tall antenna, catches their broadcasts from the air and distributes them for the convenience of the cable customers and the benefit of the advertisers that pay the broadcaster for distributing their commercials.

What rights and protections do we have to address this outrage? Well, not a lot. In 1992, Congress gave broadcasters the right to demand compensation for their signals, and cable operators were granted few legal options to resist the station owners’ unreasonable pricing and exclusive carriage demands. As the cost of carrying broadcast stations reaches atmospheric levels, the only solution now is for Congress to update its outdated rules. There really is no way to avoid that fact.

While we are posting this to give you all a chance to weigh in on these matters, we know that all of our hands are tied due to the way our current laws are written. We want to hear from you; however, the broadcasters and our elected representatives should hear loudly from you as well, because this situation is blatantly unfair with the broadcasters holding all of the cards and you holding the bill.
Photo: Gather around Glasgow folks. We have some serious business to discuss regarding your cable television service. Between now and the end of 2014, we must negotiate new agreements with the broadcast stations, like WBKO, WNKY, WTVF, WHAS, WMYO, and WDRB . These stations have all decided that we cannot continue carrying their signal unless we pay them a sizable sum for permission. It is the size of that sum that we need to discuss. They are asking for staggering increases in the monthly licensing fees. Our Programming Committee, consisting of 5 of your fellow citizens appointed by our Board of Directors, is deeply involved in negotiating the lowest possible rates and best option for our customers.  Here’s our dilemma: We either pay them or stop carrying their signals.

We have now received notices of rate increases ranging from 170% up to 1,000%.  If we keep the channels as they currently stand, based upon these demands we would all see our rates increase approximately $7.60 per month just to pay for these channels.  And make no mistake, this is not applicable to just Glasgow EPB customers, this applies to every cable company across the nation as they negotiate with the broadcast stations.  We are proud to still offer the lowest cable rates in the United States (yes, you did read that correctly – Glasgow enjoys the lowest cable rates in the United States), and we will make every effort to continue to do so.

We predict that most of our customers would say, “Drop them!” when seeing this huge increase based on the broadcasters’ demands. That would be fine with us; however, there is a very sharp hook in that bait. Dropping WHAS and WTVF would leave us without our long-enjoyed access to the Louisville and Nashville news sources that we have relied upon for years.  Dropping WBKO might leave us with no ABC, no FOX, and no CW programming at all, as they have the legal right to refuse us access to other stations that duplicate their service.

By now you are likely shaking your head in amazement that these conditions exist in our country.  After all, can’t we still put up an antenna and get these stations over the air for free? For the Bowling Green stations, that is largely still true. For the Louisville and Nashville broadcasters, that likely would not work anymore. The conversion to digital broadcast technology in 2009 rendered signal acquisition by a homeowner practically impossible if you live  more than 50 miles from the transmitter. That makes Nashville and Louisville stations a big problem. These stations, who use the taxpayer-owned airwaves for free, are allowed to set their prices at whatever rate they desire, simply because a cable company puts up a very tall antenna, catches their broadcasts from the air and distributes them for the convenience of the cable customers and the benefit of the advertisers that pay the broadcaster for distributing their commercials. 

What rights and protections do we have to address this outrage?  Well, not a lot.  In 1992, Congress gave broadcasters the right to demand compensation for their signals, and cable operators were granted few legal options to resist the station owners’ unreasonable pricing and exclusive carriage demands.  As the cost of carrying broadcast stations reaches atmospheric levels, the only solution now is for Congress to update its outdated rules.  There really is no way to avoid that fact.

While we are posting this to give you all a chance to weigh in on these matters, we know that all of our hands are tied due to the way our current laws are written.  We want to hear from you; however, the broadcasters and our elected representatives should hear loudly from you as well, because this situation is blatantly unfair with the broadcasters holding all of the cards and you holding the bill.

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