GCI may drop ABC, CW, Fox in retransmission fight

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It may be that the owners of the Fox, ABC and CW television stations in Alaska are trying to bilk GCI and its customers in Alaska.

But customers of GCI have no way of knowing if that is the case or if GCI is being unreasonable. As in most situations, there is probably blame on both sides.

In its latest announcement about cable cutting, GCI says it could soon drop programs from those channels, which are run by the same people, because of "unprecedented rate increases." A statement by GCI says the Fox owners are seeking an increase of 300 percent.

In November, GCI said, "Their real goal is clear: they are using Fox programming to pressure GCI into a 300 percent increase across multiple stations statewide, including ABC and CW that expire later this year. In Alaska that’s not called negotiating, that’s called robbery."

Vision Alaska II LLC, which owns the stations, is linked to Stephen Brissette in Raleigh, N.C., a laywer for Wyrick Robbins who is listed as representing the licensee. Vision Alaska says GCI can only carry its signals if the cable company receives "express retransmission consent."

William A. Fielder III, who is in Cumming, GA, is a member of the Vision Alaska II LLC and says the company wants a "mutually satisfactory agreement with continued service to viewers."

It's not as if there is a law requiring GCI to pass every penny increase onto the customer. GCI could at least make this clear instead of suggesting the contrary.  

GCI says "we continue to stand with you, our customers." It should announce plans to cut rates if and when those channels disappear.

Here is the announcement from GCI:

GCI pays a fee for every channel we carry, and we renegotiate those rates regularly. It's part of what we do to bring you the shows, movies, and sports you love. But it's our job to make sure those rates are reasonable because higher costs for GCI mean bigger bills for our customers.

This year, the owners of the local FOX, ABC, and CW stations demanded an unprecedented increase.

GCI is not willing accept this hike and pass it along to our customers.

For this reason and absent new agreements, GCI will be unable to broadcast the following stations effective the dates below:

  • ABC statewide, midnight January 1, 2018
  • CW statewide, midnight January 1, 2018

In addition, without a comprehensive new contract with the station owners, GCI may be unable to distribute FOX statewide beginning as soon as January 15.

We've made numerous attempts to negotiate with the management of these stations (they're all run by the same individuals) and their representative in the Lower 48, without success. We believe they're trying to use their combined reach statewide to force us to simply accept their unreasonable fees and pass the hikes on to our customers.

But we continue to stand with you, our customers, and seek a reasonable agreement. We are pushing hard to return this programming to you as soon as possible, and will keep you informed as contract negotiations continue.

Thank you for your patience, understanding, and your business.

Dermot Cole2 Comments