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Dispute Between Disney, Time Warner Leaves Triangle Cable TV Viewers Without ABC Affiliate

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DURHAM — A battle between two giant corporations has left 441,000 TV viewers in the Triangle without their ABC station.

WTVD, the Triangle's ABC affiliate, is currently unavailable on Time Warner Cable because of a dispute between the cable company and WTVD's parent company Disney/ABC.

At issue: Disney wants more money and more channels on Time Warner Cable.

ABC says Time Warner is violatingFCClaws by not carrying its programming.

"We believe we are not on Time Warner Cable and that is illegal. FCC regulations say that we need to be carried. We have given our consent to be carried," says Bruce Gordon, WTVD's general manager.

"We had granted them permission to continue to carry us at least four times over the past week, on a written basis, and they chose to disregard that and to drop us illegally at 12:01 this morning," Gordon says.

"There was no agreement or an extension to continue carrying ABC. Had there been, ABC would still be on cable right now," says Brad Phillips of Time Warner Cable.

ABC has been removed from the cable system and replaced with C-SPAN. Upset viewers are voicing their feelings and employees at WTVD and Time Warner Cable are listening. Phones are ringing off the hook.

Local customers affected by the fallout do not care who is to blame. They just want the situation fixed.

"I'm annoyed. I feel like we pay a lot of money for cable," says customer Donna Enichen. "Most of my friends have changed to a satellite dish. We're actually in the minority. And I think pretty much we're headed there also," she says.

Both WTVD and the local office of Time Warner Cable are caught in the middle of the negotiations between two multi-national companies. Disney has been negotiating with Time Warner Cable on a national basis for months.

"It's unfortunate that Raleigh and our divisions and our customers get caught in the middle of this, because this is a national issue," says Phillips. "This is not something that will be decided here. I think if it was, it would have been resolved quite some time ago."

"We take this very seriously and we really dislike the blatant disregard for the Time Warner subscribers that Time Warner is showing," says Gordon.

Representatives from Time Warner Cable say over the past week they have put forth reasonable plans which have been rejected by Disney. They say Disney's demands for compensation and channel placement are unreasonable.

Time Warner Cable representatives say they hope this is a temporary situation and that they can get ABC back on cable as soon as possible.

Both sides are at the negotiating table trying to resolve the situation.

Nationwide, the dispute has left 3.5 million cable viewers in 11 television markets without their ABC station:
  • Nearly 2 million New York City residents no longer have ABC on their cable system.
  • More than 600,000 cable customers in Houston are affected.
  • The Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville is the third largest market affected by this cable fight.
  • WTVD is not off the air. The station is off Time Warner Cable. Viewers can receive the signal with an antenna, which the cable company will be providing at their payment centers. There is also some talk of crediting customers for the time they have lost. andMichelle Singer