By ANDY MCCAMMON
WRTV, the ABC network affiliate in Indianapolis, was back on the air Wednesday morning.
Many Brazil-area subscribers to Charter Cablevision have grown increasingly frustrated with the provider over the past two weeks.
Charter failed to come to an agreement with Indianapolis ABC affiliate WRTV before the end of last year. The provider was forced to take the station off the air at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 1, costing area subscribers ABC coverage of college football's bowl season and sparking concern that the Super Bowl, also carried by ABC this year, would be similarly unavailable. Those subscriber frustrations were compounded when Charter notified about 1,900 area customers they would see a substantial increase in service charges.
Charter Government Affairs Manager James Ray explained the rate increases and updated the status of the WRTV tug-of-war at the Tuesday meeting of the Common Council of the City of Brazil.
Ray reported that Charter was very close to an agreement with WRTV, predicting the station would return to Charter some time Wednesday. He said he understood the frustration of viewers during the station's absence from Charter.
"It's so unfortunate for our customers that two commercial entities as big as Charter and Channel 6 can't set our differences aside," he said.
According to Ray, FCC regulations enacted in 1996 allow individual stations such as WRTV to re-negotiate their terms with cable providers every three years. This year, he said, Charter was unable to meet the demands of WRTV brass, resulting in the station's removal from Charter service.
Ray predicted Charter's next three-year negotiation with WRTV would be just as contentious, and said he would examine the possibility of adding another ABC affiliate to Charter's service to avert a similar problem in the future.
Ray said the rate increase letters were related to "legacy packages," promotional packages including discounted programming that never reverted back to standard Charter service. Some of the legacy packages date as far back as 2002, Ray said.
Instead of implementing an across-the-board rate increase for all subscribers, Charter opted to update the accounts of customers receiving the legacy packages. Those subscribers will have at least 30 days to update their accounts before the increases take effect, but Ray said Charter offered several programming packages that would prove more cost effective for legacy package customers than a continuation of their existing service.
Some legacy package holders have been receiving free or discounted premium services, but Ray assured customers they would not be charged for the services after the fact.
"We're not going to go back and say, 'You owe us for the last (billing) cycle,'" he said. "We're not doing that."