Local townships are reacting on behalf of their residents faced with the prospect of losing two local TV stations from their Blue Ridge Cable service.

PIKE COUNTY – Local townships are reacting on behalf of their residents faced with the prospect of losing two local TV stations from their Blue Ridge Cable service.

Most of of Pike County’s Blue Ridge Communications (BRC)’s service area no longer carries WBRE and WYOU.  This was effective February 1.

There was a rumor that WNEP was also being dropped, but that is not true, said Joe Lorah, Director of Marketing for BCM, based in Palmerton.

Most of Pike County is impacted, as is explained below. Only Greene Township, Palmyra Township and Matamoras Borough are NOT affected by the channel lineup change from Blue Ridge, Lorah reported when contacted on Wednesday.

Although Palmyra turns out to be not impacted, the matter was discussed briefly at the Palmyra Township (Pike County) supervisors’ meeting, Tuesday evening Feb. 6.

“All the townships are in an uproar over the cable- Blue Ridge,” Administrator Jo-Ann Rose said. Referring to a story in the Pike County Dispatch, she said that Shohola Township solicitor Jason Ohliger reported that a franchise is exclusive and cannot be used to address channel lineup changes.

Palmyra’s solicitor, Anthony Waldron stated that the township’s franchise agreement allows the township to address service issues. He said it doesn’t say the township has a right to control the channels. Blue Ridge, however, is required to respond to the township. He said that “in the world we’re in,” there isn’t any competing cable TV service. “The most we can say is ‘wait a minute…,’” Waldron said, voicing concern to the company.

Areas impacted

Here are the municipalities in Pike County impacted by this channel lineup change.
AFFECTED (losing WBRE and WYOU): Blooming Grove Township, Delaware Township, Dingman Township, Lackawaxen Township, Lehman Township, Milford Borough, Milford Township, Porter Township, Shohola Township, Westfall Township.

NOT AFFECTED: Palmyra Township, Greene Township.
Wayne County is also not impacted.
Note: Matamoras Borough is not served by Blue Ridge Communications.

Out-of-market

WBRE is Northeast Pennsylvania’s NBC affiliate, based in Wilkes-Barre. WYOU is the local CBS station, based in Scranton.

Lorah told The News Eagle that by Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulation, the cable company is required to carry “in-market” stations. The service area affected in Pike County is within the New York Market.

WBRE and WYOU are “out of market” stations. Blue Ridge carried them for many years as a service to their customers who wanted the local programming offered by these stations. When their contracts with Blue Ridge came up for renewal, however, the parent companies of these stations no longer offered to BRC the out of market discount price. (Nextstar Broadcasting Inc. owns WBRE; Mission Broadcasting Inc. owns WYOU.)

The owner of WNEP, the ABC affiliate in the Scranton area, continues to offer a price agreeable to BRC to keep WNEP in the lineup.

Costs, duplication

Customers complain about their cable TV rates, Lorah said, and BRC seeks to keep the costs down. Their customers in New York Market within Pike County will continue to receive WABC, WCBS and WNBC, the network affiliates out of New York. Lorah said that except for the local news and some other local programming done at WBRE and WYOU, most of the programs duplicate what is also available on the New York stations.

In addition, Lorah noted that these two stations also offer their programming streamed online, at no cost.

Customers that lose WBRE and WYOU receive other channels in their place on the Blue Ridge package.

Lorah stated that the satellite services, including DISH and DIRECTV have to follow the same FCC rules as the cable companies. They too carry the in-market stations in a given region.

The Dispatch article by Wayne Witkowski reported on the reaction by the Delaware Township board of supervisors to a letter sent out by BRC to customers, announcing the change in channel lineup.

The Supervisors responded in the regular meeting by unanimously approving a letter of protest to be sent to BRC. Copies will be sent to the Federal Communications Commission and the Pike County Commissioners.

The Dispatch reported that copies of a letter to Blue Ridge Communications from State Rep. Rosemary Brown, R-189, stating residents in her district losing those channels would lose up-to-date weather, breaking news and general news reports tailored to the Northeast Pennsylvania region that affect them.

Blue Ridge Communications management told the Dispatch the affected area also is "the Milford vicinity," which includes Milford, Blooming Grove and Shohola.

Rose stated that Shohola Township planned to contact the other local municipalities to try and “put something together.”

For more information online:
Blue Ridge Cable Television: www.brctv.com
DIRECTV: www.directvdeals.com
DISH: www.dish.com
Palmyra Township, Pike County: palmyrapike.org

[Editr's note: This version of the story corrects a typographical error in DIRECTV's name.]