May 7, 2002 – For St. Thomas and St. John television watchers, the CBS network channel is now local, rather than a cable feed from Erie, Pennsylvania. CBS affiliate station WVXF went on the air a month ago on Channel 17, received via an antenna. On May 1, it was picked up by Innovative Cable TV's Channel 9 on St. Thomas and St. John.
Bob Austin at Moxie Marketing said WVXF also expects to start broadcasting soon on Innovative Cable's Channel 10 on St. Croix. He said the station now reaches St. Croix on antenna Channel 17, but reception is not good. "They'll put a repeater on St. Croix," he said, and service is expected to improve in June.
The company is broadcasting initially on a low-power antenna but expects soon to install a high-power antenna so the station will reach Tortola and eastern Puerto Rico, Austin said.
WVXF programming consists of a basic CBS package which does not include three popular syndicated programs that had been available locally on the CBS cable feed — "The Oprah Winfrey Show," "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."
"There's quite a big price tag" for acquiring those shows, Austin said. In order for the station to add the programs, he said, it would take support from a major advertiser who wanted to spend in a month more than most local advertisers spend in a year.
Austin said the company is in negotiations with the syndicators of the shows in the hope that they'll cut their prices. "The problem in dealing with them, especially Oprah, is that they're tough nuts," he said.
Maverick Productions and Maverick Media are handling the WVXF account and will create local advertising to air on the station, Austin, who founded Austin Advertising on St. Thomas more than 20 years ago, said.
He said the new station is owned by Atlantic Broadcasting Co., which bought the old WBNB-TV license after what was then Channel 10 was badly damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and never returned to the air. The studios and transmitter for WBNB — also a CBS affiliate — were located atop Haypiece Hill in Sub Base, where WTJX/Channel 12 is today.
Nelson Claridge, the local Atlantic Broadcasting representative, said the company is owned by Gary George of Wisconsin.
Atlantic is broadcasting from Mountain Top but has no other facilities for now, Austin said. He said Federal Communications Commission rules require that cable companies carry local network affiliates where they exist, instead of receiving network stations from afar. "It's the must-carry rule," he said.
Adrian LaBennett, Innovative Cable TV general manager, could not be reached for comment.
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