Frankfort cable subscribers could be without their Fox 56 10 o'clock newscast next month, as well as that station's American Idol, as negotiations continue between the Frankfort municipal cable company and WDKY.
WDKY was set to go off the cable lineup on Dec. 31, but the two sides agreed to a 30-day extension.
The issue has arisen because WDKY owner Sinclair Broadcast Group has asked the cable provider to pay a fee to retransmit the network's programming.
The cable company's board won't disclose how much WDKY is asking for but has said that the cost would have to be passed on to customers.
Previously, it refused to pay networks to carry them on the cable lineup, "but it's kind of tough to continue with that policy when everybody except one asks you for money this time around," said superintendent John Higginbotham.
The only station not asking for money was Lexington NBC affiliate WLEX-18.
The cable provider remains in negotiations with WDKY and Louisville stations WLKY, WAVE and WHAS. (Frankfort cable transmits both Louisville and Lexington stations, though it's technically in Lexington's TV market.)
Higginbotham said negotiations with WDKY's owner Sinclair "are further along than they have been."
Sinclair's executive leading those negotiations could not be reached on Friday.
In what could be a good negotiating point for the cable provider, it already has an agreement with Louisville's Fox affiliate, meaning subscribers can still see national Fox programming such as American Idol even if negotiations break down.
Negotiations did just that a few years back when Sinclair asked for a fee. WDKY was off in the market for about nine months, Higginbotham said, before Sinclair agreed to offer it without a fee.
WDKY would still be available over the air in Frankfort if negotiations failed and also to satellite subscribers in the area.
If it's not on the cable lineup, it could be a blow to its 10 p.m. news, which now has other news competition.
ABC affiliate WTVQ-36 launched its MyNetworkTV channel, called MyTVQ2, earlier this month, and one of the highlights is a half-hour 10 p.m. newscast.
The station is available over the air and on Insight Communications' digital cable lineup in Lexington. It also will soon be available to Time Warner Cable customers in Central Kentucky, said WTVQ General Manager Chris Aldridge.
And in a potential blow to WDKY, it's available on channel 18 to Frankfort cable subscribers.
WTVQ is working to get it on Dish Network and DirecTV, Aldridge said, adding he also hopes to get it on a basic cable channel on Insight.
"At the same time, we understand they have commitments and obligations both to the city of Lexington (for government and education channels) and other programming services," he said. "We hope as we grow the station that they'll see the value in putting another local station on their basic tier."
Aldridge said MyNetworkTV has seen tremendous growth recently, primarily from the addition of World Wrestling Entertainment's Friday Night SmackDown, and has beaten another small network, The CW, nationally on some occasions.
The station means more than just ad revenue. Aldridge views MyTVQ2 as a way to extend WTVQ's news brand.
"Almost every day, I have someone new tell me they've watched it for the first time and are pleased we're doing it and giving viewers another choice at 10 p.m.," he said.
WDKY General Manager Michael Brickey said he's not concerned about the competition.
"The 10 o'clock is a dominator in its time period," he said, adding that WTVQ's offering "is a half-hour condensed version of what they've been doing, which hasn't been successful."
"We have no concerns whatsoever."
Coming and going
NBC affiliate WLEX-18 is losing but also gaining a reporter. Amanda Hara, who came to the station in April 2006, is leaving to take a job in a top 30 TV market. She'll be joining CBS affiliate WTVF in Nashville. Her last day will be at the end of the month, said WLEX General Manager Tim Gilbert. A search is beginning for a replacement.
In another on-air move, the station has hired a reporter to fill the void left by Chase Cain's decision to take a job at Louisville's WHAS.
Reporter Adam Baker joins the station from the CBS affiliate in Beckley, W.Va. Baker is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and once reported for the Madison County Cable News, according to WLEX.
WVLK's march ... no, mark
Ads promoting news radio station WVLK have confused some listeners in recent weeks.
The station has drop-in advertisements promoting upcoming segments throughout the day that point out the show will resume in 60 seconds.
The announcer ends each with "coming up in 60 seconds. Mark," said news director Scott Johnson.
But some listeners have thought he was saying 'March,' Johnson said.
You can understand the confusion.
But "that marks the point where we're counting that minute to where we get back to the show."
So you can stop marching now.