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Cable TV not expected to drop locals

September 14, 1993

By Steve Massey
The Spokesman-Review

Cox Cable and Cablevision say they’re striking deals with Spokane’s television stations to continue broadcasting their signals under new cable regulations.

That’s why cable subscribers recently got warnings saying access to KREM, KXLY, KHQ and KAYU may be in jeopardy. It’s unlikely that the cable companies will stop offering network affiliates, they say. The warnings were required by federal law.

Thanks to the 1992 Cable Act, network affiliates can seek compensation from cable companies who broadcast their signals. In the nation’s largest television markets, cash compensation has been demanded of some cable operators.

But in the relatively small Spokane market – including Kootenai County and the Pullman-Moscow area served by Cablevision – local stations are negotiating for access to other channels, more promotional time and similar in-kind compensation. (For example, five-minute windows for local news are available on the Cable News Network.)

“With three of the four stations we’re negotiating with, we’ll end up with an increase in programming available to our customers,” said Cablevision general manager Steve Delgado. “It’ll greatly increase the local news element with a couple of the affiliates in particular.”

He declined to describe specific deals with Spokane stations.

Network affiliates in Spokane said the warnings from cable companies to their subscribers spawned phone calls from angry or confused viewers.

“We’re taking eight or 10 calls a day,” said Lon Lee, KHQ general manager. “But I would be very shocked and amazed if (cable subscribers) don’t end up with all the Spokane stations that they have today.”

The deadline for cable operators to receive so-called “retransmission consent” from network affiliates is Oct. 6. Cox Cable Spokane is about to close deals with the four Spokane stations and Cablevision expects to end negotiations late this week.

However, Delgado said, programming changes probably will not be noticed by viewers until sometime next year. It’ll take several months for Cablevision and the Spokane stations to implement the deals.

Cox Cable declined to reveal any information about its negotiations.

While the idea of paying affiliates for the right to broadcast their signal angers cable companies, the Spokane stations insist they deserve something in return.

KAYU, the Spokane-based Fox affiliate, is seeking a separate channel for the network’s latest general and entertainment offering – a new station called F/X. That request is the same for all Fox affiliates.

“We are seeking a value for our signal,” said Melody Gaffney, a KXLY administrative assistant who is on a team of employees ironing out retransmission deals with a couple dozen cable companies.

Allan Collins, vice president and general manager of Cox Cable Spokane, declined to reveal what arrangements were being made with the Spokane stations. But he castigated the federal law allowing networks to be compensated.

Tuesday, September 14, 1993

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