Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has been sued by Boston's WHDH-TV (channel 7) following its January decision to terminate its affiliation agreement for NBC with the station and start its own Bean Town O&O.
The suit was filed in a Boston federal court Thursday. It accuses Comcast of breach of contract and for violating antitrust laws. It also seeks to stop Comcast from breaking up with WHDH, as well as unspecified damages.
"Channel 7's claims are based upon Comcast's January announcement that it intends to terminate its 22-year relationship with WHDH as NBC's Boston affiliate at the end of 2016 and make its cable station New England Cable News the home of its new Boston station," WHDH said in a statement. "At the same time Comcast announced that it would broadcast its new station over the air from WNEU-TV, a Telemundo station located in Merrimack, New Hampshire."
WHDH and its owner, Sunbeam, are critical of this plan. "WNEU's signal does not reach nearly 4 million greater Boston residents who currently receive WHDH's signal, including residents in primarily minority communities such as Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan and Brockton," WHDH said in a statement.
For their part, NBCU executives say the WNEU infrastructure is only one option available to them as they decide how to broadcast the new station's signal.
WHDH also said this a violation of diversity promises Comcast made in 2011 when it purchased NBCUniversal.
"WHDH believes that Comcast has violated these conditions," station managers added. "It also believes that Comcast's actions violate Massachusetts law prohibiting unfair and deceptive business practices. Finally, WHDH believes that Comcast's actions violate federal and state antitrust laws because they have enabled Comcast to increase its monopoly power in the Boston television market, and the resulting decrease in competition will harm consumers, advertisers and other broadcasters."
NBCU responded with this statement: "NBC has had a long, mutually successful relationship with Sunbeam, which is expiring under the agreed-upon terms of WHDH's affiliation contract at the end of the year. We are disappointed that Sunbeam has chosen to file this meritless lawsuit, and that it has chosen to do so by constructing baseless claims against our parent company. Rest assured that we will continue to deliver Boston-area viewers the best local news, weather and information along with the NBC news, sports and entertainment programming they already enjoy."
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