Maine Senator: TWC, Hearst Should Settle Dispute Quickly
A Maine U.S. senator has written a rather benign letter to the heads of Time Warner Cable and the Hearst station group encouraging them to reach an agreement on their carriage dispute swiftly. The
standoff has left the Hearst-owned ABC station in Maine’s largest city, Portland, off the air since last week.
Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe in her letter said the blackout is impacting 180,000 TWC customers. The ABC station in nearby Boston is also off the air in TWC homes.
Snowe did not use sharp language about constituents being caught in the middle of two corporations’ quest for profits, though she wrote she is “deeply concerned” about the results. Harsher language could come next week if there is a hearing before a subcommittee on communications, where Snowe sits.
“While I know this dispute is a contractual negotiation between private parties and take no side in this disagreement, I strongly encourage both parties to reach a mutually acceptable compromise quickly, so that these customers may be restored their normal access to important local programming,” she wrote.
Snowe is retiring and the dark station leaves one less outlet for candidates seeking to be her successor to use for ads. Unlike in other markets, Hearst is not importing a signal from another market into Portland, so ABC content is also off the air.
Nexstar, meanwhile, has filed an emergency petition with the FCC, asking that TWC stop importing three of its station signals -- from markets Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Terre Haute, Ind. and Rochester, N.Y. -– into homes where Hearst stations are blacked out in several markets. The Nexstar-run stations are being used to replace NBC, and in one case, CBS programming.
Nexstar and Mission Broadcasting filed a similar complaint in 2010 that remains pending before the commission.
In its latest FCC filing, Nexstar wrote that TWC began sending its signals hundreds of miles away “without so much as a courtesy call” and in violation of 30-day notice procedures.