OTA antenna service alleges Vegas station refused to air its ads

TV antenna
KVVU won't accept advertising from vendors, such as antenna companies, whose products presented a "cord-cutting" alternative to cable service. (Pixabay)

A Las Vegas firm that installs over-the-air TV antennas is complaining of poor reception at one of the local broadcast stations.

In a filing with the Federal Communications Commission posted last week, Mr. Antenna alleges that KVVU, a Henderson, Nevada, Fox affiliate owned by Meredith Corp., has refused to air its ads since July 1.

“From April 2019 until this year, Mr. Antenna advertised its outdoor antenna products and services on KVVU-TV,” says the complaint, received Aug. 26. “In late June 2021, however, KVVU notified Mr. Antenna that effective July 1, 2021, KVVU would no longer accept advertising from vendors whose products presented a ‘cord-cutting’ alternative to cable service.”

The complaint filed for Mr. Antenna by Wood & Maines, PC, a law firm in Arlington, Virginia, claims this decision was handed down from management at Meredith’s Des Moines headquarters.

“Mr. Antenna was told that the decision did not originate locally but came from the senior level at Meredith Corporation and would apply to all of Meredith’s television properties,” the complaint reads. “The reason given for the change in policy was that Meredith’s retransmission consent income is tied to cable subscribership, and that the number of cable households is declining as increasing numbers of people install outdoor antennas as an over-the-air alternative to cable.”

It requests that the FCC not approve Meredith’s pending sale of its Local Media Group, including KVVU and 16 other stations, to Gray Television until Gray commits to dropping that alleged policy. In May, Meredith announced a deal to sell those 17 stations in 12 markets to Atlanta-based Gray for $2.7 billion, with the deal expected to close in the fourth quarter.

RELATED: Gray acquires 17 TV stations from Meredith for $2.7B

A Meredith represented denied Mr. Antenna’s claims in an email sent Tuesday morning. “Meredith rejects the claims in the Informal Objection and will be filing a response,” wrote Kara Kelly, executive director for executive and employee communications.

Several hours earlier Tuesday, Wood & Maines attorney Barry Wood emailed to say he had not received a response yet.

“There has been no response from the parties, but I would not have expected anything this soon,” he wrote. “They have (at a minimum) another 10 days to respond.”

While a TV station refusing to air ads for a product that helps local viewers tune in may be unusual, there is some history of local broadcasters rejecting new businesses that might undercut their retransmission-fee revenue. Broadcasters successfully sued to have Aereo’s broadcast-based commercial streaming service shut down, and they have a similar suit in progress against the non-profit Locast.