Belo pulls HD channels from Charter cable in five markets

At midnight Jan. 4, media group Belo pulled its HD signal from Charter Communications cable in five markets around the country in a dispute over whether the cable operator must compensate the broadcaster for carrying its HD channel in each market.

"There's a disagreement about the value of local high-definition programming and how its value should be shared," said Carey Hendrickson, Belo vice president of investor relations and corporate communications.

The affected stations, KMOV-TV in St. Louis, WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth, WWL-TV in New Orleans, WCNC-TV in Charlotte, NC, and WVEC-TV in Hampton/Norfolk, VA, are continuing to provide their SD signal to Charter for cable distribution, Hendrickson said.

"Those stations invested millions of dollars for local HD, and Charter charges its customers for HDTV service, but they don't share it with us. They are willing to share with national networks, but not us. That's the issue," Hendrickson said.

Belo and Charter are negotiating on the matter, but Hendrickson declined to comment on how productive those negotiations are, as well as about whether Belo would take similar action with cable operators in other markets where the broadcaster owns stations that transmit in HD.

While the action is noteworthy from an industry point of view, it affects relatively few customers. Hendrickson estimated that pulling the local HD channels affects about 40,000 Charter subscribers in St. Louis, 12,000 in Dallas/Fort Worth, 8000 in New Orleans, 5000 in Charlotte and fewer than 2000 in Hampton/Norfolk.