Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Ridgway, Colorado
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This was in today's Northwest Arkansas Times:
A battle of semantics has risen in the ongoing negotiations between Cox Communications and a few television stations run by Hearst-Argyle Television Inc.
Representatives from both sides have attempted to reach a deal in which Hearst-Argyle would be compensated by Cox in exchange for the ability to air its highdefinition format.
On Monday, the cable company distributed an e-mail claiming the broadcaster has attempted to mislead viewers in Northwest Arkansas with messages that Cox charges its subscribers to access highdefinition programming. The messages equated a fee from Cox for HD receivers and CableCARD to the cable company requiring its patrons to pay to access the new technology.
We don't charge customers for broadcast digital signals, said Sarah Kauffman, a Cox public affairs manager. None of those costs go through to the consumer. KHOG, when they're saying we do charge, there is a fee for a digital box, but that's because it's a piece of equipment that a customer rents. It has nothing to do with paying for the HD stations.
That argument points to a difference in opinion between the two sides, said Jim Prestwood, president and general manager of KHBS / KHOG, the Hearst-Argyle stations acting as the ABC affiliate in Fort Smith and Northwest Arkansas.
KHBS / KHOG is one of several Hearst-Argyle stations involved in the negotiations. The others include stations in New Orleans; Oklahoma City; Omaha, Neb.; and Orlando, Fla. The parent company contends that it has a right to fair compensation from Cox Communications because of the monthly fees for the equipment needed to access high-definition feeds.
One of the issues we've been trying to bring out with a lot of the views and folks we've talked to is there are other stations being compensated in our market and markets across the country, Prestwood said. Based on our investments in HD technology in the past four years, we feel entitled to a fair compensation.
Cox Communications has responded by claiming Hearst-Argyle's proposal would cost Cox subscribers millions of dollars, but that it is willing to continue negotiating toward an agreement beneficial to both parties.
In the meantime, Kauffman said ABC viewers in Northwest Arkansas still have access to all the available programming. Since pulling the KHBS / KHOG high-definition channel on Oct. 1, Cox Communications has continued carrying the station's analog channel, as well as introducing a highdefinition version of KTULABC from Tulsa.
That station carries neither Northwest Arkansas news nor Lincoln Financial Sports' coverage of the Southeastern Conference, but neither of those programs came in high definition through KHBS / KHOG, Kauffman said.
Kauffman added that the cable company has signed contracts for high-definition signals, but such action is done on a case-by-case basis, depending whether they make broadcasting sense for the customers and financial sense for the company.
Until then, both sides could continue issuing statements to their patrons in the individual markets explaining their points of view as they await the results of a discussion at the national corporate level.
I got the impression from talking to our corporate folks that they felt like we'd have something worked out in the next couple of weeks, but you never know, Prestwood said.