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WKBT and Charter extend negotiation period

Contract extended through 12 p.m. on Jan. 1

WKBT and Charter have extended the negotiation period through 12 p.m. on January 1.

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Q. What's going on and what is this negotiation about?

Charter has built a multi-billion dollar business by compensating WKBT and others for their programming and reselling it to customers in a package.

Both WKBT and Charter have extensive data about the actual viewership of WKBT and all the other channels. There is no dispute that WKBT is one of the most viewed channels, if not the most viewed channel on Charter's system.

We are simply asking for a fair fee that is reflective of our viewership and is consistent with the agreements we have with all other cable and satellite systems.

The current negotiation truly is about fairness.

If Charter continues to insist we're being unfair, look at the percentage of programming fees that are being paid to local broadcasters vs all of the other cable channels. That information is on your cable bill.

Local broadcasters have close to 50% of all local viewing yet receive a small portion of the fees Charter charges you.

We truly do not understand why Charter would take one of the most watched channels off their system as opposed to one of the national cable networks who have a fraction of the viewing of WKBT and provide no Local News or Community Service....

We can't recall a time when Charter threatened to drop one of the national cable networks.

It also appears that Charter is trying to hold down what it pays local broadcasters across the country so apparently, we are not alone….

It must be easier for Charter to negotiate against a local broadcaster than a national network.

If you could see what Charter pays for everything they buy, you would have a better understanding why WKBT doesn't think Charter is negotiating fairly with us. You only get to see what Charter is charging for local stations….

Q. How will this negotiation impact my monthly bill with Charter? 

This is completely up to Charter. Again, Charter has built a very profitable business by reselling programming provided by local stations and cable companies. If you look closely, you can see how little the local stations impact your bill. The local stations represent a small fraction of your programming fees despite having close to 50% of the local viewing.

Q. Is WKBT making unreasonable demands of Charter? 

No. What we are asking is fair. WKBT has negotiated dozens of agreements with other cable and satellite providers--Charter has negotiated THOUSANDS of agreements. Both parties should know what's fair. 

WKBT has agreements with all other operators in the market and our request for compensation from Charter is in the same range as all the other agreements we have recently negotiated. What we are asking for is far below the rates Charter pays to national cable channels which are far less popular than WKBT, have far fewer viewers, and provide no local news or community service. 

WKBT is willing to make a very fair deal with Charter similar to all of the other recent deals we have made with its competitors. If BOTH parties can continue to compromise, a deal can be reached. Without more compromise, WKBT will be removed from Charter. No doubt that would be bad for both of us….

We really didn't think it would come to this but if you value WKBT's programming, you may have to switch providers to continue watching WKBT after the New Year.  If you stick with Charter, please have patience with us both while we continue to negotiate

Q. What are my other options for getting WKBT programming? 

All cable and satellite providers other than Charter will continue to carry WKBT without interruption beyond the New Year. You may also use an antenna to receive WKBT's digital, high-definition signal over the air free of charge. If you're interested in switching to another provider, here is a list of contact numbers and online locations:

DirecTV: 1-888-777-2454 or DirecTV.com
DISH: 1-888-926-5457 or dish.com
La Crosse area:CenturyLink 800-201-4099 or centurylink.com
Winona area: Hiawatha Broadband 888-474-9995 or hbci.com
Ace Communications Group 888-404-4940 or acegroup.cc

Q. How can WKBT charge Charter for its programming when it is free to over-the-air viewers?

Any individual can watch our programming for FREE with the use of an antenna but we don't allow anyone to carry our programming and resell it to the public without fair compensation. 

This right to negotiate for fair compensation was authorized by Congress in 1992. The 1992 Cable Act, also known as the retransmission consent process, was in large part designed to ensure that local TV stations would be able to enhance their local news and community service efforts. Our local news operation is by far the largest single expense of the television station, as it should be. We provide many hours of local news each week. Again, our agreements with operators such as Charter support our ability to provide local news and other programming.

Q. What will we be missing if WKBT is not available on Charter?

We produce nearly 25 hours of local news each week covering the issues important to La Crosse and the surrounding communities. In addition, we broadcast CBS' award-winning and highly-rated news, sports and entertainment programming including NFL football, NCAA basketball, 60 Minutes, The Big Bang Theory, NCIS and CSI just to name a few.

Q. Won't Charter just add another CBS affiliate?

In short, they can't. WKBT-TV is the local affiliate for a 14-county area in southern Wisconsin. It's called a Designated Marketing Area or DMA. If you live in La Crosse, Monroe, Vernon, Crawford, Jackson, Trempealeau, Clark, Eau Claire, Chippewa, Rusk, Dunn, Buffalo, Winona and Houston counties, WKBT-TV is your local CBS affiliate.

Q. Why wouldn't the local TV station grant an extension of the negotiation period to the operator so its programming continues to be seen?

An extension is possible and makes the most sense when both parties feel they are close enough to reaching agreement that additional good faith negotiations are likely to resolve open issues. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. 

If the negotiation has been on-going for a long period (sometimes including extensions), the station or cable operator may feel more than enough time has been spent discussing contract terms. 

If the sides are just so far apart that resolution seems unlikely, cable companies do sometimes drop TV stations from their systems until an agreement is reached. 

We are keenly aware that viewers then become caught in the middle of a business dispute. This is a bad outcome for both the station and the cable operator.

Q. Doesn't this just come down to money?

Everyone expects to be paid for the work they do. Our viewers rely on us to provide quality local reporting, to perform community service and to provide up-to-date coverage of the weather, emergency information, sports, elections, and other local issues. We also bring our viewers quality entertainment from CBS and other program providers. We must invest millions of dollars annually to do this--most of which goes into local wages, programming and technical improvements to serve our local community. Our agreements with operators such as Charter provide important support to our local operation. And again, Charter re-sells our programming to you. It's only fair that we receive a fair portion of the fee they charge you for our service.

Q. Why is this happening to WKBT, but not with the other TV stations in the area?

Each broadcaster has its own agreement with Charter that may expire at different times and we can only speak to our own situation. WKBT-TV is not privy to the negotiations with others in the market.

Q. How do I get in touch with someone at Charter to express my opinion?

You can call Charter customer service center at 1-888-438-2427 or contact them online at Charter.com.

Q. Do I need to call WKBT again after contacting Charter?

No. While we appreciate your input and welcome your comments, it is not necessary to contact us after you have contacted Charter. Just make sure your voice is heard at Charter. If you wish to share your thoughts with us, you can contact us at befair@wkbt.com.


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