State and local officials ask FCC to help resolve Time Warner/Smith Media contract dispute

UTICA, N.Y. - Four state and local-level elected officials have asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to consider taking emergency steps to resolve the ongoing contract impasse between Smith Media and Time Warner Cable that has resulted in the loss of WKTV and the CW 11 for thousands of households in the Utica area.

State Senator Joseph A. Griffo; Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito; Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente, Jr.; and Utica Mayor David R. Roefaro sent a joint letter asking FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to formally request Time-Warner and Smith Media officials to either return to the bargaining table on a daily basis, or to solve outstanding contract issues through binding arbitration as quickly as possible.

Since December 15, both stations have not been available to about 70 percent of Time-Warner customers who were receiving the stations as part of their cable package. As a result, the four elected officials who represent the Utica area told Genachowski in their letter that they regard the issue as a very serious matter affecting the public interest, since it prevents federal, state, county, and local agencies, school district, and local businesses to pass along important information to area residents about weather emergencies, school, business, and road closings, and issues affecting the public health.

In the letter, the four officials note that Time-Warner’s replacement for WKTV is WBRE, a broadcast station serving the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton area in Pennsylvania, and that the station does not provide any local news or local programming of interest to viewers in the Utica area. They also point out that WKTV is currently the only television station with a fully staffed newsroom located in the Utica area.

All four note that resolving the contract dispute is out of the jurisdiction of the New York State Public Service Commission, and that it would be in the public interest for the FCC to waive its existing regulations on contract negotiations between cable television companies and the owners of broadcast television stations, and intervene in the Smith-Time Warner dispute.

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