By NATHAN GREGORY
Viewers in Starkville and surrounding areas hoping to catch ABC programming on the local affiliate station WKDH will instead see a blank screen starting Sept. 1.
The station, which has been active since 2001, is going off the air at midnight Aug. 31.
WKDH license holder Southern Broadcasting announced Tuesday in a statement that the discontinuation is due to the company ending its local marketing agreement with the channel’s parent station, Tupelo-based NBC affiliate WTVA.
“Due to financial conditions in recent years, effective at 11:59 p.m., Aug. 31, 2012, WKDH will terminate operations for the foreseeable future,” Southern Broadcasting said in a statement to the website Broadcasting & Cable. “It has been our pleasure to have served you and provided you with the highest quality of service and programming in the Columbus-Tupelo-West Point market since we launched broadcast operations in 2001, and through the complex conversion to high-definition television in 2007.”
Calls to Southern Broadcasting were not returned as of press time.
What is uncertain is how viewers in north Mississippi and northwest Alabama will be able to see ABC broadcasts after the plug is pulled on WKDH. Southern Broadcasting mentioned in the statement that the company is “actively seeking alternative distribution arrangements,” but no additional details were specified.
Stuart Kellogg, president and general manager of Jackson-based ABC affiliate WAPT, said he has not heard any discussion regarding that station or any other ABC affiliate in the general area splitting the market WKDH will leave behind.
“It’s a little complicated, not just because of technical issues but legal issues and the way the markets are distributed. There are quite a few federal guidelines. It’s not as simple as flipping a switch,” Kellogg said. “It’s really a combination of things. There are federal laws for carrying signals on cable systems and satellite systems and there are network agreements that carry restrictions.”
Comcast spokesman Otha Brandon said the company has contacted ABC in light of the events.
“We have been made aware of the station’s decision to go dark and discontinue broadcasting,” Brandon said. “We’ve reached out to the American Broadcasting Company to learn its plan for providing programming to the marketplace.”
In the meantime, viewers who want to continue to see the network’s programing have been told to notify the company by visiting its website at http://www.abc.com , scrolling to the bottom of the page and clicking the “Contact ABC” link.
Local FOX affiliate WLOV, which is also owned by WTVA, will not be affected because it operates on a local marketing agreement with a different license holder.
WTVA station manager and chief financial officer Phil Sullivan said he wanted the LMA to be continued.
“We’re sorry the agreement ended. We’ve enjoyed the relationship we’ve had with (Southern Broadcasting) in the past,” Sullivan said. “We wish them nothing but the best in the future.”