- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

Cable television provider Cox Communications Inc. and the owner of the local ABC affiliate agreed yesterday to keep the station on Cox's systems in Fairfax County while the companies try to settle a dispute.

Earlier this week, Allbritton Communications Co, owner of WJLA-TV Channel 7, demanded Cox drop the station's signal at midnight tonight. Cox and Allbritton have been negotiating for weeks on the fee Cox must pay to carry the station and NewsChannel 8, Allbritton's 24-hour local news network.

If the signal had been cut, Cox's 240,000 subscribers in Fairfax would likely have lost popular WJLA shows like "Monday Night Football" and "Oprah" next week. Also, subscribers could have missed the first Virginia gubernatorial debate and Michael Jordan's first game as a Washington Wizards player, two programs NewsChannel 8 will air next week.

Late yesterday, Cox and Allbritton agreed to keep the channels on Cox systems until Oct. 31 while the companies continue to talk. If there is no resolution by that date, both channels will be removed from Cox systems, Allbritton said in a statement last night.

The 25-day reprieve came after a day in which both companies exchanged threatening letters. Cox said it would refuse to drop WJLA's signal tonight because it would violate a Federal Communications Commission rule that says a cable company must give their customers 30 days' notice before dropping a broadcast station from its lineup.

In its letter to Cox, Allbritton said the company could be subject to FCC sanctions if it aired WJLA without Allbritton's permission.

Last year, Cox's subscribers lost Fox-owned WTTG-TV Channel 5 for six days when the companies could not agree on terms to renew WTTG on Cox systems.

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