PITTSFIELD, Mass. — U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey report he has brokered a deal to restore WWLP, Channel 22, to cable viewers in the Berkshires.
Charter Communications had removed the NBC affiliate in Springfield nearly three years ago, cutting off Berkshire residents access to television news in Massachusetts. WCVB, Channel 5 Boston, was cut in 2018.
Because the Berkshires are technically part of the Albany, N.Y., "Designated Market Area," Western Massachusetts viewers have only had access broadcast stations in the Capital District with their focus on New York news. Berkshire County is, therefore, known as an "orphan county," like other counties in Wisconsin, Colorado, and Nebraska that rely on outside stations for limited local news.
Markey has worked with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal for three years to bring the station back on the air in the region.
"The people of Massachusetts rely on local broadcast television every day. It's how we get the news that matters to us. It's how we stay up to date on the information that affects our lives," said Markey. "That's why I have been working for nearly three years to bring WWLP back to the Berkshires, and I am proud to announce that we have reached a solution that will give Berkshire County residents what they want: access to Massachusetts news.
"I thank Nexstar, WWLP's owner, and Charter for reaching this deal, and I thank Senator Warren and Congressman Neal for working with me to make this agreement a reality."
Under the terms of this agreement, WWLP will be restored to the Charter channel lineup and subscribers will either see live WWLP news programming as it airs, and when the news is not being aired live, the station will loop previous news broadcasts. In effect, the station will serve as a 24-hour WWLP news station covering Massachusetts. Charter subscribers in the Berkshires will also continue to have access to broadcast stations based in Albany, New York. Charter subscribers should expect the WWLP programming to come on the air in the next 60 days.
"We all strongly believed that Massachusetts residents should be able to view Massachusetts news, weather, emergency alerts and other important programing," said Neal. "With today's announcement, the people of the Berkshires will once again be able to watch the local NBC affiliate WWLP TV-22 rather than Albany news. This is terrific news for Berkshire County."
Markey previously introduced legislation with Warren and Neal that would force the cable company Charter to engage in good faith negotiations with WWLP and WCVB to bring those stations back on the air in Berkshire County. Specifically, the bill authorizes a cable operator (Charter) to transmit any station that was retransmitted to viewers on Dec. 1, 2016, including WWLP and WCVB, to subscribers in the Albany Designated Market Area, which includes Berkshire County, and forces Charter and the stations to negotiate carriage.
The bill also preserves Berkshire County residents' access to Albany stations that provide relevant weather updates and important emergency information. Markey pushed for a version of this bill as an amendment to the 2019 satellite reauthorization bill in the Senate Commerce Committee.
"WWLP-TV 22News is extremely pleased that Nexstar's work with Charter, Congressman Neal and Senators Markey and Warren resulted in WWLP-TV's News 22 local newscasts and programming returning to Charter subscribers in Berkshire County and we are looking forward to providing our high-quality, top-rated local news and content to those viewers," said Robert Simone, vice president and general manager of WWLP.
Markey has personally met with the chief executive officers of Charter and Nexstar, WWLP's owner, and encouraged the two parties to resolve their dispute and meet Berkshire residents' demand for Massachusetts television programming. Over the past three years, his staff has been in regular contact with both companies and has worked to return carriage of Massachusetts programming to the Berkshires.
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