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Verizon Fios subscribers in Baltimore area told they could lose WBAL and NBC programs | COMMENTARY

This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the logo for Verizon above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
This April 23, 2018, file photo shows the logo for Verizon above a trading post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File) (Richard Drew/AP)

Verizon informed local subscribers this week that they could lose access to WBAL and NBC programs after midnight Dec. 31 as a result of the company’s retransmission agreement with Hearst Communications ending. Hearst owns WBAL-TV in Baltimore, and as the local NBC affiliate here, the station carries the network’s programing in this market.

In an email to subscribers, Verizon said it is negotiating a new contract with Hearst in an effort to continue to provide the programs to subscribers.

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Headlined “Fios TV Content Update,” the email reads in part:

“We are negotiating with Hearst Television, the owner of WBAL NBC & WBAL MeTV, to reach a new agreement ... We’re working hard to come to a fair agreement with Hearst Television before our current agreement expires on December 31, 2020. We hope that Hearst Media will not remove its channels from our channel lineup.”

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WBAL General Manager Dan Joerres referred questions to Hearst Communications. Tom Campo, a spokesman for the company, declined to comment Wednesday.

Verizon emailed a statement to the Sun Wednesday, saying in part: “Affordable local news is vital and customers want quality at-home entertainment, especially during a pandemic, so Verizon is surprised that Hearst Television is demanding pay increases that might keep Fios customers from watching their channels. We urge Hearst Television to get serious about reaching a fair agreement and hope they will not remove their channels while negotiations continue.”

The agreement being negotiated covers Hearst channels in other cities as well.

David Zurawik is The Sun’s media critic. Email: david.zurawik@baltsun.com; Twitter: @davidzurawik.

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