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GCI May Cut KTUU from Some Alaska Communities

By Austin Baird, Political, Rural Reporter, abaird@ktuu.com
Published On: Oct 11 2013 07:54:26 PM AKDT
Updated On: Oct 11 2013 07:58:28 PM AKDT
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -

GCI customers in several rural Alaska communities may soon need to find another way to watch KTUU newscasts.

The company announced Thursday it would not carry Channel 2 programming in nine communities unless a new agreement is reached before Wednesday, Oct. 16 at midnight.

Barrow, Bethel, Cordova, Kodiak, Kotzebue, Kuparuk, Nome, the North Slope and Valdez could be affected.

“We would like to continue to carry Channel 2 and its full programming,” GCI spokesperson David Morris said during an interview. The problem is the lack of a long-term deal, he said.

Neither party would discuss specific terms of ongoing contract negotiations, but each side confirmed GCI has proposed deals up to 12 years in length.

KTUU marketing director Brad Hillwig said in an interview that the industry standard is typically three to five years, and in a statement Friday evening KTUU general manager Andy McLeod said a 12-year term would be "unprecedented."

Hillwig also took issue with a cutoff date that could affect thousands of GCI customers and KTUU viewers.

"It's really an artificial deadline,” Hillwig said. “We provide KTUU programming to (GCI) free of charge to these rural areas, and they have sole discretion to remove that if they want to."

Morris contends that even though the programming is free, the supporting infrastructure needed to broadcast in rural areas is not free.

The affected communities will be able to watch KTUU through the Alaska Rural Communications System and other cable providers.

In a statement Friday, KTUU management said it reiterated its offer to continue providing free carriage of its programming to GCI through 2014.

Negotiations do not affect Anchorage.