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KTUU-TV news switches off in Juneau

The Anchorage-based station and GCI could not come to a carriage agreement

Posted: December 10, 2013 - 1:08am

Juneau’s GCI cable TV customers lost KTUU-TV’s Channel 2 News on Saturday when the two entities failed to reach a carriage agreement by the extended Dec. 6 deadline. Talks between the two had been going on for months without a resolution.

Channel 2 News is no longer available to the approximately 20,000 GCI customers in Southeast and rural Alaska, GCI spokesman David Morris said. Rural Alaska lost Channel 2 News programming on Nov. 8. KTUU-TV General Manager Andrew MacLeod said he doesn’t anticipate the two companies will come to an agreement that would restore Channel 2 News to Southeast televisions any time soon.

KTUU-TV and GCI had reached an agreement in principle — a contract that stated what rates GCI would pay for KTUU-TV content — on Nov. 22. But both sides feel the other broke the agreement soon after, nullifying it and causing Southeast consumers to lose out on Channel 2 News programming.

“The day before Thanksgiving, after we had agreed on all the issues, Channel 2 inserted language saying we would compensate them twice the amount after the general manager signed it,” Morris said.

He said GCI “left on the table that if (KTUU-TV) came back to what they agreed to” the cable provider would continue to air Channel 2 News. But the news station didn’t back down on the price, Morris said, and GCI was forced to end programming.

MacLeod said he wouldn’t disclose how much KTUU-TV was asking for news programming, but the rates requested were the same that had been paid for years by KATH-TV and KSCT-TV, before GCI purchased the two NBC stations.

He said GCI broke the Nov. 22 agreement by adding a provision that would prevent KTUU-TV’s growth by obligating the station to accept any agreement GCI had with any Alaska broadcaster KTUU-TV might want to partner with down the road.

“We cannot take a deal today no matter what the economics are if it limits our ability to grow in the future,” MacLeod said.

GCI doesn’t see it the same way.

“If they say we’re trying to prevent them from going into joint ventures, that’s completely untrue,” Morris said. “We’re not keeping them from doing anything.”

Although the companies don’t see eye to eye, Morris and MacLeod both said the dispute is frustrating for customers.

GCI customer Deanne Neal said she wakes up early for work and is used to starting her day with Channel 2 News. She’s tried other news stations, but has always stuck with KTUU-TV’s broadcast because she doesn’t find the competitors’ as useful.

“I really miss it now, big time,” she said. “I like all the people who work there. I’ve lived here all my life, and I know people are missing this. This is not cool.”

Regina Jones grew up in Juneau and now splits her time between the capital city and the Anchorage area. However, her mom, 85-year-old Terry Murphy, lives in Juneau full time and always loved watching the local news, Jones said. Her mom told her she misses knowing what’s going on in the state, but feels she doesn’t have a choice but to use GCI’s service, she said.

“It upsets me that Mom doesn’t get anything local,” she said. “She’d rather watch what’s happening in Alaska than what’s happening in the Lower 48. She’s an Alaskan. She likes her news.”

MacLeod said he sees Channel 2 News’ departure from Juneau screens as a detriment to the community.

“I think that not having an independent news source is not a good thing,” he said. “We regret that we’re not on down there. But because GCI has been able to buy those stations and has the cable operation down there, it’s their choice.”

Morris said Monday afternoon that GCI hadn’t gotten any complaints from customers yet.

“But, to be fair, it just happened,” he said.

The next carriage discussion between the two companies will be in 2014, when the Anchorage-area market will be at stake.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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