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TV programming talks at an impasse, say negotiators

Some Alaskans can’t get favorite programs during talks

Negotiations that would bring programming on three network channels back to thousands of Alaskans in time for playoff football and Alex Trebek’s final episode of “Jeopardy” haven’t produced results, according to fiery statements from both sides.

GCI suspended programming on ABC, FOX, and CW Network channels on Jan. 1 after a contract expired, the company said in a news release. It is illegal for a cable company to carry programming without a contract.

GCI received a counteroffer to its Dec. 29 offer from Coastal Television and Vision Alaska as part of an ongoing contract negotiation over programming for ABC, FOX and the CW channels in Alaska, but the offer fell “far short of expectations,” according to GCI.

“We were hoping to receive a meaningful counteroffer from Coastal Television and Vision Alaska so that we could make real progress in negotiations,” said GCI Chief Communications Officer Heather Handyside in the news release. “Unfortunately, yesterday’s proposal brings us no closer to resolution. We know our customers are frustrated and we are too — that’s why we started negotiations in July last year in the hopes of avoiding the very situation we find ourselves in right now.”

Coastal Television and Vision Alaska initially proposed an almost 40% rate increase to GCI’s programming contract, according to GCI, and the most recent offer is still near that threshold.

Coastal Television said in a statement that GCI’s requests aren’t feasible.

“GCI is demanding Coastal reduce its current rate by almost 30%,” Coastal Television said in a release. “Coastal would be unable to sustain such a drastic reduction.”

Coastal Television characterized GCI’s statements as misleading and placed the decision to suspend programming at GCI’s feet.

“Unfortunately, rather than making an offer that will allow Coastal the ability to continue operating, GCI has put out false and misleading statements to confuse their subscribers even more. It is past time for GCI to give their subscribers the programming they signed up and paid to receive by re-connecting FOX, ABC, and The CW networks.”

Josh Edge, media relations specialist for GCI, said in an email Juneau customers will be eligible for a credit; however, he was unable to provide an amount that might be credited.

In past releases and a frequently asked questions page, GCI has encouraged customers displeased with the suspension of programming to contact Coastal Television. Coastal, has encouraged people to contact a GCI executive.

• Contact Ben Hohenstatt at (907)308-4895 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.

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