Local broadcasting saved despite cable legislation

By Sabryna Cornish

“Seinfeld” has been saved. “The Simpsons” is staying. “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has survived.

Warner Cable and local television stations reached agreements to keep rebroadcasting. The cable company was working against an Oct. 6 deadline to keep existing local stations which include NBC, CBS, WGN, ABC and FOX networks.

The cable company, which serves NIU students and the surrounding DeKalb area, had to bargain to keep the broadcasting rights it had previously because of newly-enacted legislation.

The Cable Act of 1992 prevents cable companies from rebroadcasting local stations’ programs without the stations’ consent.

Andrew Bast, general manager of Warner Cable, said some of the contracts were agreed upon “hours before the (Oct. 6) deadline.”

He said either an agreement or an extension was issued for most of the networks. The time frame of agreements or extensions is anywhere between 60 days and three years. Bast said the FOX station has given a 60-day extension.

Bast said the hardest part of complying with the Cable Act of 1992 is it has a retransmission consent clause which requires cable companies to get local stations’ permission to retransmit their signals.

He said, however, most stations want to charge the cable companies to rebroadcast their shows.

“A signal that should be public must be paid for now,” he said.

Bast said Warner Cable would like to keep carrying the local stations, but it will not pay to retransmit the shows. “We have no interest or intent to drop any of the stations we offer. All agreements were non-cash extensions or agreements that will not affect our customers’ rates.”

He said it has been an extremely difficult process to incorporate Federal Communications Commission regulations into the cable industry.

“The intent of the (Cable Act) was admirable. Unfortunately, there are provisions in the (Cable Act) that have been erroneous for the cable industry,” he said.

Bast stressed he thought it was unfair for the cable companies to pay for something that normally is free to the public.

“Congress granted use of the waves to the broadcast industry in exchange for public service,” he said. “We’re not going to pay cash (to retransmit programs),” he said.

Congress passed the Cable Act in 1992 to protect consumers’ rights and control broadcasting regulation.