WHDH Sues Comcast Over Loss of Affiliation

By Kevin Eck 

Saying it thinks Comcast has violated Massachusetts law against unfair and deceptive business practices, Sunbeam-owned WHDH filed suit against the cable giant in federal court today.

The Boston NBC affiliate says its claims that the parent company of NBCUniversal has violated federal and state antitrust laws are based on NBC’s announcement it was pulling its affiliation from the Boston station after 22 years.

NBC announced its plans to create NBC Boston in January. The new NBC-owned station would operate out of the New England Cable News building. Some, like Sunbeam, continue to speculate that NBC Boston would be broadcast from Telemundo station WNEU.

NBC, though, has never said how it would transmit its broadcast. NBC Owned Stations president Valari Staab said, at the time of the announcement, the station group was “committed to expanding our over-the-air coverage of the market and are currently looking at a variety of options to accomplish that.”

“Comcast promised its NBC affiliates (including WHDH) that it would negotiate affiliate extensions in good faith such that over the air access would be maintained, and cable interests would not influence those negotiations,” says WHDH. “As part of the FCC’s approval of Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, the FCC adopted these same conditions in order to protect the public interest. WHDH believes that Comcast has violated these conditions.”

WHDH says it’s looking for damages and “an injunction and an order requiring Comcast to comply with its obligations under its agreement with WHDH and the FCC order.”

An NBC spokesperson told TVSpy:

“NBC has had a long, mutually successful relationship with Sunbeam, which is expiring under the agreed-upon terms of WHDH’s affiliation contract at the end of the year. We are disappointed that Sunbeam has chosen to file this meritless lawsuit, and that it has chosen to do so by constructing baseless claims against our parent company. Rest assured that we will continue to deliver Boston-area viewers the best local news, weather and information along with the NBC news, sports and entertainment programming they already enjoy. Indeed, with the extensive investments we’ve made and will continue to make in our over-the-air service, we will have the best television broadcast offerings in the region, with two major broadcast network stations – NBC Boston and Telemundo Boston – that can reach over-the-air viewers throughout the Boston region in both English and Spanish, as well as a 24×7 cable news network – necn – that reaches viewers throughout New England.”

Here’s the coverage map WHDH sent along with its press release showing WNEU’s signal in the Boston market.
WHDH Broadcast Signal Coverage Map 05

This post has been updated from its original.