New Castle News

January 2, 2013

Youngstown station seeks cable reprieve

Mitchel Olszak
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Lawrence County’s Comcast customers have lost access to a Youngstown television station, but the move may not be final.

The cable company, which services New Castle and surrounding communities, dropped WFMJ from its lineup in late December. The station is affiliated with the NBC television network.

However, the manager of WFMJ believes the decision can be reversed. And his station is urging Lawrence County viewers to call Comcast to ask that access to the station be restored.

Jack Grdic, general manager of WFMJ, said he anticipates Comcast officials will be meeting this week to reconsider the matter. He said the cable company’s decision to drop the station is linked to retransmission negotiations that take place between local stations and carriers every year.

Grdic said he believes Comcast “jumped the gun” by pulling WFMJ from its lineup and he is talking with company representatives to restore the station. He said the effort has been complicated by the fact a lot of people are on vacation this time of year and unavailable to participate in discussions.

He noted that under Federal Communication Commission rules, Comcast does not have to carry WFMJ in this county. Instead, the federal regulating agency requires that the cable company carry Pittsburgh stations.

The NBC affiliate in Pittsburgh is WPXI.

“We’ve just been inundated with calls” from Lawrence County viewers concerning the move, Grdic said. He is encouraging viewers to call Comcast at (800) 266-2278 to express their opinions. A message to this effect is posted on the station’s Facebook page.

Grdic pointed out Comcast does not pay anything to the station to carry WFMJ in Lawrence County.

When contacted by the New Castle News about the matter, Bob Grove, Comcast spokesman issued the following statement:

“This was a business decision made between Comcast and WFMJ. Approximately 90 percent of this programming is duplicative in the New Castle lineup, and customers can continue to watch their favorite NBC network programming on WPXI, the local in-market NBC affiliate.”

Comcast continues to carry the Youngstown stations that offer programming from CBS and ABC, which is also provided on the cable system by stations out of Pittsburgh.

Grove added that Comcast has received “only a few calls” from viewers about the decision to drop WFMJ.