Pax TV, AT&T pact for Pittsburgh area

Commercial time exchanged, not cash

Pax TV will finally get its family-oriented network programs into Pittsburgh, signing a deal with AT&T, whose 13 Pittsburgh cable systems will start running the Pax schedule July 5.

Paxson Communications, the majority owner of Pax TV, tried to engineer an affiliation deal with one of the public TV stations in Pittsburgh, which required the approval of the Federal Communications Commission. But the transaction ended up in the bottom of the FCC’s things-to-do pile, despite a get-off-your-duff letter from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). That letter made headlines earlier this year during McCain’s fight for the Republican presidential primary with Texas Gov. George W. Bush, causing many commentators to brand McCain a hypocrite because of his public outcry against the cronyism of the Washington establishment.

The AT&T deal will harvest 532,000 of the 900,000 cable subscribers in Pittsburgh. Paxson is negotiating with the other cable systems in Pittsburgh to increase that percentage.

No cash changes hands in the AT&T transaction. In exchange for the clearance (10 of the 13 AT&T systems will place Pax TV on a choice dial position, channel 4), Paxson will give the AT&T systems six commercial minutes an hour to sell locally, according to a Pax TV spokeswoman.

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