Charter gets FCC complaint from 3 cities over Northwest blackout

Charter headquarters building
(Charter Communications)

The cities of Yuma, Arizona, and El Centro, California, along with the town of Jackson, Wyoming, have jointly petitioned the FCC against Charter Communications, 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) reads. “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. 

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Charter reps didn’t immediately respond to FierceCable’s inquiry for comment.

Eleven Northwest network affiliates went dark on Charter on Feb. 2. 

RELATED: Charter blacked out by 11 Northwest Broadcasting affiliates

In an email to FierceCable Wednesday, Northwest President and CEO Brian Brady included a copy of an op-ed he said ran in a “New York paper” over the weekend. (We couldn’t find in a Google search.)

In the op-ed, Northwest said fears that Charter would exploit its girth following its 2016 purchase of Time Warner Cable have largely come true. The missive said Charter is exploiting its size advantage and is not negotiating a new broadcast retransmission deal in good faith.

“Charter is 2000 times larger than Northwest Broadcasting and has been exerting their size and leverage in the present retransmission consent dispute,” the op-ed said. “On February 2nd Charter refused the day to day extension they requested and with 10 minutes notice, took our stations off their cable system. Charter then went on a full scale offensive to create economic harm to Northwest in an effort to force us to accept their offer while refusing to negotiate.

“We have learned that it is no different for numerous municipalities which have been forced to sue Charter to collect the fees that are contractually owed to them,” the piece added. “Most disputes are settled because Charter uses their army of lawyers to outspend the municipalities forcing the municipality to settle on Charter’s terms, regardless of their contractual obligations.”

Affected stations not only included KPVI-TV in Idaho Falls, KYMA-TV in Yuma and KIEM-TV in Eureka, but also: CBS affiliates KSWT-TV in Yuma and KVIQ-TV in Eureka, California; Fox affiliate 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.