SARANAC LAKE - Anne Warner is used to switching on her television to WPTZ every morning for local news, weather and events in the North Country, so she was confused today when she found Time Warner Cable channel 5 carrying WBRE out of Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
"I was baffled," the Saranac Lake resident told the Enterprise. "It was entirely different - not local, and of course the weather is not accurate."
Warner wasn't alone. Time Warner Cable subscribers across northern New York and Vermont are missing out on local WPTZ programming due to an ongoing dispute between the two companies.
WPTZ and WNNE's carriage agreement with Time Warner Cable expired at 11:59 p.m. Monday, according to a statement posted on WPTZ's website. WPTZ has offices in Plattsburgh and Colchester, Vt.
"Unfortunately, notwithstanding our best efforts to reach a new carriage agreement, we were unable to do so," the statement reads. "As a result, unless there is a change in Time Warner's position, carriage of WPTZ/WNNE will no longer be available to you on Time Warner systems.
"We cannot predict if or when discussions with Time Warner will resume or if or when WPTZ/WNNE's programming will be restored on Time Warner systems."
But Time Warner Cable representatives see the impasse differently. Stephanie Salanger, communications manager for Time Warner's central New York office, said the company pays for programming so it can broadcast it to customers. In this case, Salanger said Hearst Television Inc., which owns WPTZ, is asking for four times more than what they've received in the past. She said she couldn't disclose specific numbers because they are confidential.
"That's not fair and not rational," Salanger told the Enterprise. "We've been negotiating in good faith to come to a fair agreement. We do hundreds of agreements throughout the country all the time, and with most of them, you don't hear about it.
"We're holding our feet in the sand to say, 'This isn't fair to customers to charge four times as much for what's in existence online for free, when programming hasn't substantially changed.'"
Salanger said it's in the best interests of both companies to reach an agreement.
"We're hopeful," she said. "We'll continue to negotiate and get it back in the lineup as soon as possible."
In the meantime, Salanger said viewers will still be able to view NBC network programming through WBRE. She noted that local news and weather is still available on other regional TV stations, including YNN and WCAX.
"Certain (Federal Communications Commission) rules limit our ability to import TV signals from other cities," Salanger said. "We have done so where those rules currently permit it so customers can get their network programming."
The impasse comes about two weeks before the London Olympic Games, which will be broadcast by NBC. Hearst urged viewers "to make alternative arrangements for receipt of our signal.
"Our signal remains available over the air for free and also on other cable systems, DirecTV and DISH Network," the company said in a statement. "We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your loyal support."
Contact Chris Morris at 518-891-2600 ext. 25 or firstname.lastname@example.org.