Two of Curry County’s cable channels continue to be off the air after Northwest Broadcasting removed them Feb. 2 — just as the Olympics and a NASCAR race were getting underway — due to a rate-negotiations disagreement.
Two channels affected include those that come out of Medford: KMVU (Fox) and KFBI (My Network).
Spectrum pays Northwest for the right to carry the stations, which they cannot do without its permission, said Bret Picciolo, senior communications director for the region. And they now want a 75 percent rate hike.
“Northwest is currently demanding an outrageous rate increase — especially (outrageous) considering their programming is provided free over the air and much of it is available over the Internet,” he said. “They are demanding to be paid significantly more than we pay any other broadcast station for the same network programing.”
Northwest Broadcasting has hired temporary customer service personnel to handle the volume of complaints and questions they’ve been receiving.
“We are getting quite a few calls, especially when (the blackout) first started,” said Ella Grissom. “Their service was just dropped without any notice. They want an explanation; they want to be reimbursed. Most people just want to be able to get their local stations. They’re paying for it, so they want to get it.”
The representatives have been telling customers that, in some locations, including some areas of Curry County, people can stream local stations through the Internet or dish, or can even purchase an antenna to pick up channels.
Grissom said Spectrum is not “coming to the table” to negotiate, so she doesn’t know how long it will be before, or if, Medford channels will be aired again.
She said the 30 or 40 other providers to whom Northwest Broadcasting provides service have signed onto the contract.
“Negotiations have just stopped,” she said of Spectrum. “Nothing is progressing. It is unfortunate, because there’s not a lot Northwest can do until they can come to an agreement on the contract.”
The cost of programming is the single greatest factor in cable prices.
“We refuse to pay the huge fee increase they are demanding,” Picciolo said. “We have negotiated fairly and successfully with hundreds of broadcast stations with no blackouts. Unfortunately, this is simply how Northwest operates. They have pulled their programming from nearly all other distributors, including Verizon, DirecTV, Dish and Cable One. They went dark with Verizon and Cable One just last year.”
Grissom said she’d heard some Spectrum customers were able to get partial reimbursements when the blackout started, but more recently, people are telling her they’re getting nothing.