FCC RULING HELPS WVBG

MARK McGUIRE Staff writer
Section: LIFE & LEISURE,  Page: D7

Date: Saturday, December 4, 1999

WVBG, Ch. 25, recently lost its UPN affiliation but gained something of potentially equal value Friday: the right to air on at least a portion of Time Warner Cable. The Federal Communications Commission ruled that the dominant cable carrier must air WVBG on at least the part of its system that serves Washington County.


``I'm excited to be able to served the communities in the Capital District, starting with Washington County,'' said Dan Carbonera, president and general manager of WVBG parent company Vision 3 Broadcasting Inc. ``We set out with this objective when we started two years ago,'' when the station was formed.


The FCC ruling could allow Time Warner to transmit WVBG via cable for only Washington County, segregating its signal from the rest of the system. Time Warner could also appeal the ruling, or allow WVBG to broadcast throughout its system.


``The decision applies to Washington County only,'' said Peter Taubkin, Time Warner's vice president of government relations and public affairs. ``It applies to a small portion of our system.''


The ruling handed down comes just weeks before WVBG loses its UPN affiliation to a new cable-only station -- started in part by Time Warner Cable.


Clear Channel, parent company of WXXA, Ch. 23, struck a deal with Time Warner Cable and UPN to create a cable-only station, WEDG, Ch. 4, that will air UPN programming starting Jan. 1.


The ruling is rooted in a technicality: WVBG, which broadcasts out of Albany County, names Washington County as its site of licensing with the FCC. Since no other commercial station does so, and WVBG includes news, weather and other programming specific to Washington County, Time Warner must carry the station on its system.


``A review of the evidence demonstrates that WVBG-LP is a qualified low-power television station in Washington County,'' William H. Johnson, deputy chief of the FCC Cable Services Bureau, wrote in his decision. ``No full power station is licensed to Washington County. Accordingly, Time Warner is obligated to carry WVBG-LP in those portions of its system.''


The creation of Edge TV will knock WSBK, Ch. 38, the Boston station, off the local cable outlet (Boston Bruin games will air on WEDG.)


Although Taubkin said he does not think the FCC ruling will have an impact on WEDG, Carbonera said this might affect UPN's decision to move UPN programming.


``I think UPN may still be thinking about what it wants to do,'' he said. ``It may change the landscape.''


UPN officials were not immediately available for comment.