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WPGA-TV Wins Carriage, But Not Placement, on Cox

WASHINGTON: WPGA-TV in Macon, Ga., won the support of regulators in a carriage battle with Cox Communications. The Federal Communications Commission determined that Cox had to carry WPGA under must-carry rules. The July 16 order ends an odyssey between the parties that started with a retransmission agreement that ran through 2011.

That agreement was contingent upon WPGA being an ABC affiliate. The station’s owner, Lowell Register of Radio Perry, announced in late 2009 that WPGA was ending its relationship with ABC and going independent. Local Fox affiliate As WGXA-TV prepared to carry ABC on a digital subchannel, Cox ran a legal notice in the newspaper of record that it would carry the ABC feed on Ch. 6, replacing WPGA.

Register sought and briefly won a temporary restraining order from the Georgia Superior Court preventing Cox from moving WPGA. While the court eventually ruled in Cox’s favor, the TRO was left in place pending appeal.

The FCC agreed that WPGA was entitled to must-carry, but only on Ch. 58, the station’s virtual assignment.

“Our deliberations in this matter are limited to the rights of the parties under the commission’s rules,” the order stated. “Under those rules, Perry has a right to carriage on Ch. 58. The commission rules also... allow parties to mutually agree to carriage on a different channel. We defer to the court to determine whether the contract in this case, or any other contract between the parties, constitutes such an agreement.”

Cox vice president, Lynn Murphey, told CBS affiliate WMAZ-TV that Cox disagreed with the FCC ruling.
-- Deborah D. McAdams