Our Opinion: End WCVB blackout


Berkshire County's inclusion in the Albany, New York television market has been a problem for years, raising ire when, for example, an Albany affiliate telecasts a New York Jets NFL game and the western end of Patriots nation is deprived of access to a New England game. This problem became considerably worse a year ago when the Berkshires lost full access to WCVB Channel 5 out of Boston because WTEN Channel 10, the ABC affiliate out of Albany, successfully protested that it should be protected under Non-Duplication Protection accorded by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC.)

A bad rule that gives priority to an out-of-state station over an in-state station has been compounded by the inability of Time Warner Cable and Hearst Television, owner of WCVB, to agree on a rights fee to return full coverage. Time Warner and Hearst also disagree as to when Channel 5 is permitted to broadcast under the Non-Duplication agreement, which is why viewers sometimes find that is available and other times find it blacked out.

State Representative William "Smitty" Pignatelli of Lenox has written to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator-elect Ed Markey -- who was on the ground floor of many television law issues in Congress -- and U.S. Representative Richard Neal to address the situation. Highly regarded WCVB provides state news that would be of considerable interest to the Berkshires -- marathon bombing follow-up, Whitey Bulger trial, Aaron Hernandez saga, Boston Red Sox surprising season -- while WTEN is offering Albany-related news -- statehouse machinations, shootings in Troy, sports coverage of Siena -- of little or no interest to viewers in the Berkshires. Absent a solution, this nonsensical situation continues.

The FCC should review a law in which geography trumps state borders. WTEN should be a better neighbor and abandon its non-duplication challenge. Failing this, our three federal representatives should pursue a solution that again links the Berkshires, through WCVB, to important state news coming out of Boston.


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