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Click-KOMO dispute continues; Tacoma cable company may call for FCC scrutiny

Post by C.R. Roberts / The News Tribune on Jan. 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
January 3, 2013 4:47 pm

The David-and-Goliath struggle between Tacoma’s Click Network and Fisher Communications continues, and Click customers remain without access to KOMO and ABC programming.

“There’s been no movement,” said Click spokeswoman Diane Lachel on Thursday. “We’re still in the same place.”

Six stations from the Fisher stable went dark for Click subscribers on New Year’s Day because negotiations had stalled concerning the fee Click pays for Fisher’s programming.

This coming weekend, Click subscribers can look forward to notices about what action they can take next, Lachel said.

“We’re working on our next steps,” she said. “You’ll see a call-to-action, a 30-second spot, a little promotional spot. We’re mad as hell, and we know you are too, and here’s what you can do.”

A call for comment to Fisher corporate offices was not returned on Thursday.

“We feel as though this would rise to the view of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission),” Lachel said.

She noted that the amount Fisher was asking for programming seemed exorbitant. A one-year contract with the company expired at the close of 2012.

Lachel said only “a handful” of subscribers has opted to leave the network, a nonprofit enterprise operated by Tacoma Power.

Some 1,700 subscribers called Click offices on Wednesday to inquire about the lack of KOMO and other Fisher programming.

“By far, of the calls I’ve taken, most people are generally frustrated and are about 10-to-1 in our favor,” Lachel said. “When we explain, (their sentiment is) ‘Oh my gosh, well hold out.’ We’re doing the best we can for our customers. I know what (their negotiator) is saying. They’re holding the line. But a huge increase year-over-year? We don’t see the improvements to their programming.”

A notice on the KOMO website Thursday said in part: “Despite good faith efforts, KOMO TV and THIS TV’s carriage agreement with Click Network expired on December 31, 2012. Since a new, fair agreement with this provider could not be reached, KOMO TV and THIS TV are no longer available on Click Network. At this point, while we remain open to continuing discussion with Click Network, we do not anticipate that KOMO TV and THIS TV will return to Click Network’s channel lineup.”

In its third-quarter financial report, Fisher showed a large increase in revenue for its retransmission services. The amount the company charges retransmission broadcasters such as Click are not disclosed.

Click, Lachel said, is considering how to recompense subscribers for the lack of Fisher products. Customers may receive credit for the lost programing, she said.

Fisher has not released information concerning whether it will refund money to advertisers whose messages are not being broadcast to Click subscribers during the dispute.

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