BELO Pulls Local HDTV Stations

BELO Corp. has forced cable operators to pull their local HD signals in several cities.

The company, owner of 19 stations nationwide, had requested that operators pay a fee to carry the signals, which are usually free. The cable companies, however, feel that the signals should be free, since they’re available with no charge over-the-air with a UHF antenna.

The decision affects subscribers in Fort Worth, St. Louis, New Orleans, Charlotte and Norfolk.

Jim Rothschild, director of operations for the Belo-owned KMOV in St. Louis, said they feel that cable companies such as Charter Communications should share in the cost of HD production since HD helps them bring in and retain customers.

"We are simply asking Charter to share some of the value that it gets from our HD investment. They pay national channels for HDTV services, so they should also pay local channels," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Operators, on the other hand, are reluctant to pass that cost on to their viewers as cable bills continually rise.

Cable companies must get permission from local stations to broadcast both HD and non-HD signals. Until recently, this had been free of cost, but stations have been asking for fees to provide the HD feeds, sparking debates. The SD signals are still being provided at no cost.