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As deal fails, GCI drops KTUU for rural airwaves

Posted: November 11, 2013 - 1:03am

ANCHORAGE — Following a breakdown in contract negotiations, telecommunications company GCI is dropping KTUU from its rural broadcasts.

KTUU, the NBC affiliate for Alaska and producer of the most watched newscasts, says 22 communities are affected, including Bethel Kodiak, Nome, Unalaska and Valdez. That represents about 7,000 GCI subscribers.

The Anchorage Daily News reports contract talks went late into Friday. KTUU was dropped Saturday.

Spokesmen for the two companies expressed frustrations Saturday about not reaching an agreement. GCI says KTUU, owned by Schurz Communications Inc., wanted to charge too much money for its programming.

“KTUU, unlike other broadcasters, is not paying its fair share for getting its signal from Anchorage to your community,” GCI said in a statement. “They want to leave GCI holding the bill while they collect increased advertising revenue.”

KTUU said it wasn’t about the money. A GCI subsidiary successfully sought permission to buy CBS affiliate KTVA Channel 11. Before the purchased was approved, KTUU had told the Federal Communications Commission that it was worried GCI would drop the channel.

GCI has spent about $20 million on its new state-of-the-art television operation, the company said, and is heavily advertising its early December launch, the newspaper reported.

“When you step back and see the chess pieces on the board, you see that GCI is launching its news product on KTVA and restricting KTUU,” said Brad Hillwig, KTUU spokesman and marketing director. “The fact these two things are happening simultaneously is troubling.”

CGI said it will replace KTUU programming with Star Kids and Family Network beginning Saturday for the most affected communities. In Kuparuk and the North Slope, the programming will be replaced by WGN, a CW-affiliate based in Chicago.

For its part, KTUU said viewers in the affected communities can receive the channel on Dish Network, DirecTV and other Alaska Rural Communications Service networks, as well as live streaming online and mobile devices.

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