FOX fight blocks football in Juneau

Dispute between TV channel and GCI keeps screens dark

A dispute between Juneau’s FOX TV affiliate and cable TV provider GCI is likely to keep Alaskans from watching football this weekend.

 

In a sternly worded statement released Friday, GCI said the affiliate abruptly turned off the FOX signal to Juneau on Wednesday amid a dispute about how much GCI should pay for FOX programming.

“GCI has carried FOX to our Southeast Alaska customers for years, most recently under a 2011 agreement that is good through 2018. The owners of the (Southeast) FOX station and their new Lower 48 representative turned off that signal on (Wednesday), claiming for the first time that the contract does not allow GCI to show FOX programming in Southeast Alaska. This claim is false and totally contrary to how the parties have been operating under the 2011 contract for the last six years,” GCI wrote.

The cable provider went on to accuse the affiliate of trying to exercise leverage in ongoing negotiations.

“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,” GCI wrote. “In Alaska that’s not called negotiating, that’s called robbery.”

For its part, the company that runs the FOX affiliate here said in a competing statement that it notified GCI on Wednesday that GCI was illegally using FOX programming in violation of FCC rules and needed to stop.

Unless the dispute is resolved before kickoff, Juneau residents must turn to satellite TV or an over-the-air antenna to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears, and the Dallas Cowboys play the Atlanta Falcons.

College football would also be affected. FOX is scheduled to broadcast Michigan State-Ohio State, USC-Colorado and TCU-Oklahoma on Saturday.

So-called carriage disputes, or rate disputes between TV channels and cable or satellite companies have become increasingly common as TV markets shift. A growing number of Americans are dropping cable TV in favor of Internet-only options, pressuring cable and satellite companies’ bottom lines. GCI, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, had 24,991 cable TV customers in the third quarter of 2017. That’s down from 26,134 cable TV customers in the third quarter of 2016.

At the same time, TV channels are asking for higher fees from cable companies, setting up conflicts that have repeatedly led to blackouts.


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-2258.


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