Some of your favorite NBC programs may be disappearing from your TV screens now that the network has announced plans to end its affiliate relationship with WHDH-TV at the end of 2016.
Station owner Ed Ansin says he’s fighting to keep that from happening.
"We intend to contest NBC’s plans," said Ansin.
Ansin says NBC’s planned TV divorce could violate an agreement Comcast made with the FCC to let the cable giant buy NBC five years ago.
Comcast promised to make sure people could continue to get NBC programming free over the air without being forced to buy cable.
NBC tells WHDH its programs will air on a signal broadcasting from Merrimack, New Hampshire. But as a map based on FCC information shows, that signal doesn’t reach half of the city of Boston and millions of viewers farther south.
WHDH’s signal reaches all of those viewers.
"They have the right to buy a station, change affiliation. That’s their privilege. They don’t have a right to violate the agreement between Comcast and NBC and the affiliates, and the government," Ansin said. "This is clearly not in the public interest. They will have half the coverage area of Channel 7. They will reach less than half of the population."
Ansin isn’t the only one worried about viewers losing out. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he’s keeping a close eye on what’s happening.
"One of my concerns is that it’s unclear of what the future of NBC will be in the city of Boston," Walsh said. "If it’s going to be part of a package where people have to pay for it. Right now it’s free."
The office of Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, a national leader on telecommunications policy, released this statement:
"As a long-time supporter of universal service and free, over-the-air local broadcasting, Senator Markey intends to closely scrutinize the impacts any deal could have on viewers in Massachusetts."
Markey also said NBC must stay free for everyone.
"We don’t want to see a day when there’s a kid in Brockton, a poor kid, that wants to watch the Patriots on a Sunday night, and they don’t have access to NBC for free on their local television station and they don’t subscribe to cable," Markey said. "We have to make sure that that kid and every adult in our region has access to free over-the-air television, universal."
NBC says its new station will be over-the-air and not cable-only and added in an email, "We are committed to expanding our over-the-air coverage of the market and are currently looking at a variety of options to accomplish that."
Ansin has actually been through this fight before when NBC pulled its affiliation from his Miami station WSVN 25 years ago.
He built that station into a news and ratings powerhouse.
Ansin says if NBC succeeds in separating again, viewers can be sure WHDH and 7News will more than survive.
"I continue to believe that our agreement’s going to get extended but in the event it does not, Channel 7 News is still going to flourish, still going to be the News Station in Boston, still going to have outstanding coverage," Ansin said. " We’re going to continue to innovate, going to have exciting newscasts."
All NBC programming will continue to air here on this station until at least the end of this year.
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