FCC sides with WTNH-TV in waiver petition, mostly

On Dec. 19, the Federal Communications Commission granted in part a waiver, sought by WTNH-TV, of the agency’s “significantly viewed” exception to its network nonduplication rules that prevents cable operators from deleting duplicate programming from their system.

Based in New Haven, CT, the ABC affiliate sought the waiver so it could enforce its exclusivity rights in Meriden, Milford, Wallingford and Waterbury, CT, against WABC-TV in New York City.

After reviewing the station’s petition, Nielsen audience data submitted in support of WTNH-TV’s request and a reply from WABC-TV, the FCC granted the waiver for Meriden, Wallingford and Waterbury but denied the request for Milford.

Commission rules prevent a cable operator from carrying duplicate broadcast programs from a distant station upon the request of a local in station with exclusivity rights. However, the FCC makes an allowance for “significantly viewed” distant stations.

According to the Memorandum Opinion and Order in the WTNH-TV matter, the exception is based on “a demonstration that an otherwise distant station receives a ‘significant’ level of over-the-air viewership in a subject community.”

Commission rules allow the agency to grant a waiver using a detailed methodology to demonstrate objectively through audience measurement that a distant station is not “significantly viewed.”

In its MO&O, the FCC said WTNH-TV made the required showing to support its petition for the waiver in the communities of Meriden, Wallingford and Waterbury. However, the agency took issue with the data supplied for Milford, and thus rejected the waiver petition in that instance.