Seattle Broadcasters Sue To Keep Retrans Rates Private

By Kevin Eck 

The corporate owners of several Seattle stations have sued Click Cable TV to keep the terms of their retransmission agreements with the Tacoma city-owned cable company away from the Tacoma News Tribune.

The broadcasters have said disclosure of the terms would undermine their negotiating positions with the cable company and would eventually result in consumers paying more to watch their stations.

The Bellingham Herald reported the issue over whether the records are public or private came up after Click Cable and Fisher owned station KOMO settled a contentious dispute over retransmission fees.  After the agreement was reached, the News Tribune asked for details, including just how much the new fees were.

Bill Fosbre, deputy city attorney for the City of Tacoma, told the Bellingham Herald,  his office initially agreed to provide the files saying they were public documents and subject to disclosure. But when Click notified all of the companies it had agreements with, Fisher and several other broadcasters countered that the agreements represent proprietary information protected by federal law.
“Fisher has indicated that if Click … releases an unredacted copy of the Agreement, Click will have materially breached its contract with Fisher and Fisher can terminate service to Click’s customers,” Fosbre wrote. “…This would harm the public and is an untenable position for Click and its customers.”

The broadcasters involved are Cox which owns CBS affiliate KIRO, CBS, owners of CW affiliate KSTW, Fisher Communications, which owns ABC affiliate KOMO, Belo, owners of NBC affiliate KING and sister station KONG, and Tribune Broadcasting, owners of FOX affiliate KCPQ.