The manager of Tacoma’s Click Cable TV alleged in an email last month that Fisher Communications unfairly withheld its broadcast signals from the network earlier this year as a way to force Click and its subscribers into paying higher fees.
Nonetheless, the city-owned network acquiesced to a new three-year deal, agreeing to pay what it views as “unreasonable” fees so that it could restore KOMO TV, Univision and other Fisher-owned channels to Click’s customers.
In the email sent Feb. 8 – a week after the new agreement had been struck – Click General Manager Tenzin Gyaltsen bluntly told Fisher Senior Vice President Randa Mikarah that “we are not at all pleased” about the new fees Fisher “demanded.”
Gyaltsen added that Click was entering into the new agreement “under protest.”
“We believe that Fisher has an unfair advantage over Click and used its power to withhold the signals in order to control and impose unreasonable terms in this negotiation,” Gyaltsen wrote.
The details of what exactly those financial terms are – the amount of so-called “retransmission fees” that Click’s 23,000 subscribers will end up paying in their bills – haven’t been disclosed. Whether the fees should be made public is now the subject of a lawsuit headed for a court hearing Friday.
Gyaltsen’s email was among Fisher’s court filings this week as part of the suit that four other broadcasters brought this month against Click and The News Tribune. The lawsuit seeks to keep information about the broadcasters’ fees charged to Click secret.
Click officials repeatedly have used the escalation of such programming fees as justification for raising its customer rates.
In court filings, executives for Fisher and CBS have suggested that if they are forced to disclose the fees, their companies may seek to charge Click higher rates in the future or opt not to contract with the network at all.
“Mr. Gyaltsen and Click’s principal negotiator, Diane Lachel, repeatedly told me that the fees that Fisher was seeking were the highest of any local broadcaster,” Fisher’s Mikarah wrote in a declaration to the court. “If true, and if disclosed, then no other local broadcaster is likely to agree to grant retransmission consent for its station’s signal for a lower fee than Click has already agreed to pay Fisher.”
Yet, Click appears to already view the fees as excessive. In his email last month to Mikarah, Gyaltsen noted Click felt forced into agreeing to Fisher’s “unreasonable terms” in the latest agreement.
“Fisher offered Click no choice but to pay its demand so that the broadcast signals of ABC and Univision could be restored to our customers who have elected to receive these free over-the-air broadcast signals through Click’s cable system,” he wrote.
Without elaborating, Gyaltsen added in the email that Click “intends to pursue equity through other means.”