Charter files opposition brief against Northwest as retransmission dispute enters month 4

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Charter Communications has responded to an FCC complaint by Northwest Broadcasting accusing the cable company of not issuing a proper warning before taking 11 of its channels down in February. (Charter)

Charter Communications has filed a brief with the FCC, opposing a complaint filed in March by three cities claiming the cable operator didn’t provide enough notice before taking down broadcast stations.

“Northwest, not Charter, caused the removal of the stations from Charter’s cable service by withdrawing retransmission consent after refusing Charter’s offer to continue carrying the stations’ signals under the existing terms and conditions while negotiations continued,” said the filing, which was obtained by the Jackson Hole Daily.

Charter said it couldn’t provide the required 30-day notice because the removal was tied to a negotiation over broadcast retransmission consent, and the cable company didn’t have control over when that consent was removed. 

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Charter made this filing on April 26. Northwest Broadcasting has 10 days to respond. 

RELATED: Charter gets FCC complaint from 3 cities over Northwest blackout

The blackout of 11 Northwest Broadcasting stations on Charter began on February 2, meaning the retrans dispute is now officially in its fourth month. 

Affected stations not only included KPVI-TV in Idaho Falls, Idaho, KYMA-TV in Yuma, Arizona, and KIEM-TV in Eureka, California, but also CBS affiliates KSWT-TV in Yuma and KVIQ-TV in Eureka; Fox affiliates KAYU-TV in Spokane, Washington; WYT-TV in Syracuse, New York; WICZ-TV in Binghamton, New York; KFFX-TV in Medford, Oregon; and KFFX-TV in Yakima, Washington.

 In March, the cities of Yuma, Arizona, and El Centro, California, along with the town of Jackson, Wyoming, jointly petitioned the FCC against Charter, claiming the operator blacked out local Northwest Broadcasting network affiliates without giving proper notice.

“KYMA and KSWT [are] affiliates of NBC and CBS, respectively, and both owned by Northwest,” the petition (PDF) said. “On Feb. 2, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, Charter removed KYMA and KWST from its channel lineup for customers in Yuma. Yuma was not notified by any Charter entity until 5:31 p.m. Eastern, half an hour after the channels were removed.”

Federal law requires Charter to provide advance notice in the event it takes down broadcast stations.

Charter representatives didn’t immediately respond to FierceCable’s inquiry for comment. However, in an email resonse to Fierce, Northwest President and CEO Brian Brady accused Charter of describing Northwest's monetary demands with six different numbers. 

Brady also referenced Charter's troubles in New York, where state officials yesterday once again threatened the cable operator's franchise agreement in the Big Apple amid allegations the company hasn't come through on broadband speed promises made in the run-up to its purchase of Time Warner Cable. 

"As I look at New York's claims against them for not delivering broadband speeds they advertise and their non delivery of the promised increase in broadband homes (a deal with New York to secure NY's approval of the their merger with Time Warner) along with municipalities suing them to enforce their franchise agreements there is a pattern," Brady said. "I have spoken to many municipalities that have nothing to do with our issue and have listened to their experience with Charter and it all fits a pattern of behavior that you see for a company that is to big and has virtual monopolies in many communities. They don't care about their customers, the cities they do business with or their suppliers."

Brady also said Charter is in now hurry to end the dispute with Northwest. 

"We have had a number of conversation over the last month in an effort to bring this to a resolution," he added. "They have shown no desire or urgency to resolve this matter. When they will only have one conversation a week it reinforces their lack of desire and urgency. Not the behavior you would expect out of a company that keeps telling their subscribers they are working diligently on a resolution."