Time Warner swaps 2 TV stations for Athens County

After two years of tuning into Columbus-based TV stations, Athens County viewers had to ring in the new year with Charleston versions of their CBS and FOX stations.

Time Warner Cable customers in Athens County have expressed frustration about the abrupt shift that occurred Jan. 1, though the cable provider has claimed no responsibility for the change.

From 2010 to 2011, Time Warner customers in Athens County had access to ABC and NBC affiliates from Columbus and Charleston as well as the FOX and CBS affiliates from Columbus.

With the FCC-mandated change, Time Warner must offer all the Charleston-based affiliates — meaning Athens will now get the Charleston FOX and CBS stations, Barbao said.

The cable provider could not fit all eight of the affiliates, so the Columbus-based FOX and CBS were traded for their Charleston counterparts.

Federal law mandates that cable providers carry local TV stations. But the FCC, which enforces the law, does not create its own districts, so the agency uses the designated market areas of the Nielsen ratings company, said Judy Barbao, a Time Warner spokeswoman.

Although Nielsen’s DMAs are adjusted annually, Athens County remains in the Columbus DMA, said Courtney Jones, a Nielsen spokeswoman.

“We do not regulate anything that has to do with laws for cable providers,” Jones said.

The change in affiliates stems from FCC regulation that mandates Athens have the affiliates it had 28 months before the current election cycle.

A FCC spokeswoman did not explain the rationale for the regulation and declined to comment.

“There’s got to be a better solution,” said Barbao. “But we are only following the rules we need to follow based on the FCC regulation.”

Barbao said significant portions of the programming will remain the same but that local programming and sports coverage might be affected.

“Customers in the area will still get a mix of Columbus and West Virginia news,” Barbao said.

Time Warner customers in Athens County have expressed their frustration with the change, Barbao said.

“It just seems asinine,” said Kevin Gorczyca, an Ohio University senior studying early childhood education. “To switch it to West Virginia is the stupidest thing they could have done. It’s just terrible.”


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