BILL LAMB: A letter to our viewers regarding Time Warner - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BILL LAMB: A letter to our viewers regarding Time Warner

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A letter to our viewers:

WDRB and WMYO are not currently on the Time Warner/Insight cable system and many of our viewers are rightfully upset about that. They don't know whether to be mad at Time Warner or at us. Please allow me to give you some background and let you know what is happening in this negotiation.

All cable systems must pay for the channels they send into your home, like CNN, HGTV, E!, MTV, as well as all the local channels like WDRB and WMYO. We had an agreement with Insight through April that was simple and fair. We want to be paid a low-end fair market value for our stations going forward and nothing more. We aren't greedy. For example, we only asked for a fraction of what Time Warner pays to ESPN or Fox News or TBS. We would accept a considerably lower fee than we believe Time Warner has already paid for significantly weaker-rated Fox stations. And we offered to give them WMYO for free!

We want the public to know that we are required to pay Fox a per-subscriber retransmission fee in order for WDRB to retain the affiliation. Fox, in turn, will use that money to invest in better programming and to secure better sporting events for broadcast. We have asked for a modest increase in our fee, but 100 percent of the increase goes to the Fox Network -- we keep none of it. Let me say that again. WDRB doesn't get to keep one cent of any increase.

Back in February, Insight was bought by New York City-based Time Warner for $3 billion and when that happened, many things changed.

1) On March 23, the first communication we had with Time Warner was a letter saying they had unilaterally decided not to pay us close to $500,000 that was owed. They said we could sue if we wanted, but they weren't paying. We are baffled by this heavy-handed tactic because it is a clear violation of our contract. Their defense of this tactic is essentially along the lines of, "We're keeping it because we can."

2) Time Warner then began negotiations for a new deal with us by declaring that they intend to pay us far less than we know the current market value is for a strong Fox station. We started to wonder what Time Warner has against Louisville and WDRB.

3) As recently as last Saturday they sent us an idea to settle this dispute. While it was still below fair market value we were ready to agree. Their response, surprisingly, was to pull their offer back. They said it was just an idea, not an offer.

4) We suggested we send them another offer. They sent us an e-mail that said -- and this is a direct quote -- "Send whatever but I can assure you that we won't do it." In other words, "Send us your best offer, but I can assure you we will reject it."

We don't believe that is negotiating in good faith. We want to reach a fair agreement and get back on Time Warner cable. We want to quickly get back to offering Real Time Closed Captioning of News to the deaf and hard of hearing customers of Time Warner.

We are a family-owned business negotiating against a cable giant but we will not be bullied by people who don't understand our community or the value we try to bring to it. Other broadcast groups have been much more aggressive than our company in procuring retransmission fees. For example, Sinclair Broadcasting, the company that owns WDKY in Lexington, has almost certainly procured a higher rate from Time Warner for a less-viewed Fox station in a much smaller market. We would probably be thrilled to get the same rate they have.

Time Warner may be using this negotiation as a way to send a message to the other Louisville stations that when it's their turn to negotiate with the cable giant they better not mess with the boys from New York, or the same could happen to them. For WDRB and WMYO, there is nothing to be gained by being off their system. With that said, we will stand up for what is fair. We hope we can reach an agreement soon and we sincerely apologize to our viewers for the inconvenience this has caused them.

Finally, in a separate matter, according to news reports, Time Warner has threatened to move nearly 1,000 jobs to other states, many of which belong to your friends and neighbors. We ask them to find a way not to move those jobs.

Bill Lamb

President and General Manager

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