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Mediacom Pulls Plug on KGAN

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CEDAR RAPIDS - Shortly after midnight on Saturday, KGAN Channel 2, the local CBS station, went off the air for Mediacom subscribers. Its owner, Sinclair Broadcast Group refused the cable operator's offer to seek binding arbitration.

The dispute is over how much money Sinclair should receive for allowing Mediacom to carry its stations and affects more than 800,000 Mediacom subscribers in 12 states.

With the Superbowl just weeks away set to air on Channel 2, Fred Koontz had his HDTV set ready to watch. Then at 12:01, for Mediacom cable subscribers, Channel 2 on went off the air. But Koontz didn't waste anytime getting Mediacom to install an antenna so he could get channel 2's signal back on his set. But it wasn't as easy as it looks.

He says, "Kind of a nightmare, trying to run two different remotes, trying to get Channel 2 on just rabbit ears."

Koontz says it's not cable, and the signal isn't as good. But at least the antenna was free. Mediacom serves about 150,000 customers in eastern Iowa, who all had the same problem as Koontz.

Cars lined up down the block from Mediacom as customers came to get their antennas. Mediacom worked throughout the day to restock their antenna supplies. But, at times, workers sent customers away empty-handed and told them to come back next week.

Bob Porazil says, "[I'm] going to spend the weekend looking around to see what good local dish packages are out there, possibly switch to the other local cable provider in town."

Mediacom says, for the most part, customers were very understanding about the dispute between the cable operator and Sinclair Broadcast Group, Channel 2's owner.

Mediacom Vice President of Government Relations John Koebrick says, "We hope that everyone's going to come to their senses and reach an agreement in the public's interest as soon as possible."

Sinclair and Channel 2 would not comment on the dispute over how much Mediacom should pay Sinclair to carry its 22 stations. So far, Sinclair has refused Mediacom's offer. But Mediacom says this is only temporary.

Koontz says, "Hopefully, they resolve the issues so we can have 2 back on Mediacom."

Channel 2 has exclusive broadcasting rights for CBS programming in this market. So Sinclair can prevent the cable operator from bringing in any other CBS signal into the area. Mediacom is airing other programming on Channel 2 at this time. And where legally possible, like in Iowa City, it has added the Quad Cities' CBS station for subscribers.

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