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Kahoka Cable TV, WGEM Channel 10 Showdown Looms

Kahoka Cable TV, WGEM Channel 10 Showdown Looms

By Mike Scott

Unless one side blinks in the next 23 days, Kahoka Cable customers will lose WGEM Channel 10 and other WGEM-owned channels from their cable lineup. In addition to Channel 10 (NBC), WGEM provides Fox on CGEM and the CW channel.

The city has until December 31 to reach an agreement for retransmission rights.
WGEM is demanding subscriber fees from Kahoka CATV customers or else they will no longer grant Kahoka Communications permission to air the signal of WGEM, says Kahoka Communications. The city and WGEM faced similar negotiations at the end of 2005, which were resolved without a service interruption. WGEM is requesting approximately $3800 annually for the rights.

“We would be very disappointed to be forced to discontinue carriage of WGEM,” said Kahoka Communications in a press release last week. “However, our customers have always received this channel at no additional cost, and we don’t believe our customers should have to pay for something that can be received for free. Our customers have expressed the same opinion they would rather drop this service rather than pay higher cost for this service. After all, we have other local channels to watch free and clear.”

Since 1992, television stations have been given the right by the federal government to grant or deny permission to cable companies the right to carry their television signals. This right is exercised every three years by the television stations.

“There is no valid reason why WGEM should begin to charge our customers now for its free over-the-air television signal,” said Jim Neves / CATV Manager, “Especially after we have just spent thousands of dollars to keep your Analog signals going during the new Digital Transition. We will continue to work with WGEM for the right to air its signal, but we don’t think we should have to pay for it.”

WGEM Vice President and General Manager sees the situation differently.

“WGEM has conducted retransmission consent negotiations with video programming distributors in our market since 1993, and in many cases there was some form of compensation involved. This election cycle, which covers the next three years; our company decided that compensation would be a part of all carriage agreements for program providers in each of the markets for our 12 television stations. We’d love to provide the service, but we have too many deals with too many systems, and to single out Kahoka not to pay would be unfair to them,” Fernandez said.

“The marketplace has clearly confirmed that the times have changed, and we feel strongly the need to be consistent with all video programming providers. Whether the provider is a for-profit or non-profit, municipalities or corporations, or large or small cable company, they all have agreed to a fair compensation for carriage of our station – including Dish and DirecTV.

We have offered Kahoka carriage of three stations for the price of one – NBC, FOX and CW.

We want the customers of Kahoka to be able to watch our stations. We value them and will continue to serve their community with news, weather, and sports coverage as well as other community-related programming (like the popular Academic Challenge program which Clark County High School is a part of and made their initial winning appearance this past weekend on WGEM-TV). Should Kahoka Communications choose to drop our stations, they will no longer be able to watch our local news programming and all the NBC programming on that cable system. Of course, Kahoka residents will still be able to watch all of the WGEM stations for free over the air – as they always have. Our stations are broadcast digitally to the Tri-States on channels 10.1 (NBC), 10.2 (CW), and 10.3 (FOX).

Kahoka pays compensation to most every other cable channel, far more than what WGEM is seeking (somewhere around 1/10th of what ESPN would likely charge) and WGEM is by far the highest viewed channel on their system. We feel the compensation is deserved,” continued Fernandez.

“WGEM and Kahoka Communications have reached an agreement five times in the past for carriage of the signal on the cable system. This agreement has always been fair and reasonable, and this agreement has been reached without cable company customers paying for something that their friends and neighbors are receiving for free. All of our other off-air networks-KYOU, KIIN, ABC, CBS, and WTJR-have given rights to carry their programming at no cost. We are actually providing a service to WGEM by installing a state of the art receiving station and passing the quality signal on to you, our valued customers,” said the Kahoka Communications press release.

“For the longest time the greatest value to a cable system has been its ability to carry the local channels,” Fernandez said. “We’re adding value to the cable system, and it’s fair we be compensated for that.”

“Who travelled to St. Louis last week to cover the Clark County Indian football Championship? Who do you turn to for severe weather information, “ Fernandez asked.

At the Monday, December 8 meeting, the council voted 4-0 against paying WGEM for retransmission rights.