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WACP-TV Resolving Must-Carry Schism With Blue Ridge

WASHINGTON — Western Pacific Broadcast is working out its must-carry differences with Blue Ridge Cable, according to a filing with regulators. Western, owner of WACP-TV, the VHF TV station established in Atlantic City, N.J., following the digital transition, filed a carriage complaint against Blue Ridge, which responded by asking the Federal Communications Commission to modify WACP’s market so it wouldn’t have to carry the station in 10 Pennsylvania communities.

Blue Ridge claimed WACP “failed to provide a signal of good quality to the systems as required by the commission’s rules. Therefore… the petition should be denied because the station is not eligible for must-carry status on the systems.”

A TV station must deliver a signal of at least -61 dBm to the principal headend of a cable system to qualify for must-carry. The records indicate that Blue Ridge was unable to adequately decode WACP’s signal at two headends serving the 10 communities.

“For Lehighton, they could not pick up the signal at all,” Blue Ridge’s Joe Lorah wrote in an email to station representatives last October.

Subsequent tests conducted last December indicated WACP’s signal was -72.35 dBm at the Ephrata, Penn., headend; and -75.35 at the Lehighton, Penn., headend. Blue Ridge filed its request for market modification in early January. Western Pacific has now filed two requests with the FCC to extend its period of consideration on the original must-carry complaint while it hammers out the signal-strength issue with Blue Ridge. In the second, posted on Monday, Western asks to extend the proceeding to July 10, 2013.

“The parties have been in settlement discussions and are close to concluding a settlement that would terminate this proceeding,” the filing said. “The termination of this proceeding through settlement would preserve scarce staff resources without harming the public.”

Western said Blue Ridge was apprised of its request and would not oppose it.

WACP was constructed on one of two full-power TV station licenses issued following the 2009 digital transition, which left two states without a VHF broadcasters—contrary to federal law. Western, a division of Tampa, Fla.,-based Richland Towers, bought the license for WACP, now an indie on Ch. 4, for $3.8 million. The same group paid $20,000 for a license on Ch. 5 in Seaford, Del.