Cover Story: Hot Dispute

Trying to Get Buffy and Roswell on Local Cable

Summertime in the USA means longer days, warmer weather and less TV watching. The latter might actually be a good thing, as viewers decompress from a season of their favorite programs. Why not leap off the couch and play ball, visit an amusement park or work on the yard?

Then again, you don't want to go cold turkey. That might not be healthy. But TV, of course, is awash in reruns. Though, as NBC cleverly pointed out a few years ago, "It's not a re-run if you've never seen it." True, they used this in the middle of a season as disgraceful attempt to hoard new shows for sweeps, but still they were on to something.

It's time to catch up on shows you've missed, because you were committed to another show in the same time slot or school got you to bed early or you had plenty to watch in the fall, winter and spring.

Start with your high-in-appeal, low-in-ratings shows that generate some buzz in newspapers and magazines — like Dark Angel (Fox), Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Roswell.

The latter two have just found new homes on UPN after moving from the WB. Problem for a lot of folks is UPN's affiliate in Cincinnati is lower-powered Channel 25 (WBQC), which the city's cable system, Time Warner, refuses to carry.

"The War," as WBQC calls it, rages on. Time Warner has changed its story several times on why it can't or won't carry the station, but the consistent reason is lack of channel capacity. Only by "moving things around," according to TW's Virgil Reed, was the system able to add TV Land, The History Channel and Food Network. They're looking to import UPN programming from another source, possibly a super station in Boston.

WBQC's only other option would appear to be leasing time. Station owner and GM Elliott Block says, however, "We won't pay the ransom."

If Time Warner's claims are true, the only way WBQC could be added is by way of digital cable, which would cost $12 more a month. Obviously you'd be getting a lot more than just Channel 25, so viewers would have to look at that carefully. Block has hinted he might be amenable to such an arrangement, but both parties point out that cable subscribers might not totally dig such a settlement.

You can visit the station at wbqc.com, and/or write Virgil Reed at Time Warner of Cincinnati, 11252 Cornell Park Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45252-1812. Buffy and the Roswell kids hope you'll help out during your summer vacation.

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