A decision by the Federal Communications Commission earlier this week should clear the way for Cox Communications to remove WPGA from its cable TV channel lineup and return ABC programming to channel 6.
Such a move by Cox would end a nearly two-year battle between Cox and WPGA over the lineup slot, which began after WPGA, a local TV station, dropped ABC network programming on Jan. 1, 2010, because the station no longer wanted to pay a $500,000 fee to broadcast ABC shows.
WPGA, which switched to syndicated programming instead, has fought to stay in the same channel 6 slot on Cox’s lineup ever since, while the cable company has sought to drop WPGA entirely and return ABC -- now carried in Middle Georgia by WGXA -- to channel 6 and channel 1006 in Cox’s digital lineup.
The FCC decided Monday that it wouldn’t interject itself in the dispute and said WPGA became a “retransmission-consent” station based upon a contract it had entered into with Cox.
WPGA has argued that it is a “must-carry” station, which would mean that Cox would have to carry the station in its Middle Georgia lineup.
An initial ruling in Bibb County Superior Court in May 2010 ruled in favor of Cox, and the Georgia Court of Appeals later upheld that ruling in June 2011.
Lynn Murphey, a local Cox Communications vice president, said she was pleased with the FCC decision and plans are in the works to remove WPGA from its lineup and transition ABC back to channel 6 from channel 15, where it is currently being shown.
“It’s a very clear victory for Cox and supports our position to drop WPGA from our lineup,” she said. “Basically, there’s a process we have to go through, and we want to make sure it’s done right. We’re going to commence the process quickly.”
Murphey said the process includes officially notifying WPGA of the decision to drop it, as well as running notices to let viewers know of the change. Once that is completed, Cox will air ABC on both channels 6 and 15 for a period of time to allow viewers to get used to the new lineup slot.
After that, Cox will drop ABC from channel 15 entirely and repurpose channel 15’s bandwidth to expand Cox’s high definition channels, Murphey said.
Attempts to reach Lowell Register, president of WPGA’s parent company, Register Communications, were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.