FORT WAYNE – A week after announcing plans to operate a local independent station, Nexstar Broadcasting Group Inc., filed a federal civil antitrust lawsuit against a competitor.
The Irving, Texas, company said Monday it wants to prevent Granite Broadcasting Corp. from trying to monopolize local advertising sales in the Fort Wayne area.
Granite, based in New York, and Fox announced an affiliation deal last month after Nexstar failed to reach an agreement with the network, which carries American Idol, Glee and the NFL. The affiliation agreement between Fox and Nexstar expired a year ago.
Media companies usually pay a fee to carry a network affiliates programming.
At least one national report said Fox was demanding affiliates pay a percentage of the money they receive from cable operators for retransmitting their signals.
Last week, Nexstar touted WFFT Local as a replacement for the Fox affiliation.
The station is to debut Aug. 1 on Channel 55 and feature expanded community news, popular syndicated shows and movies. WFFT Local will air on Comcast Channel 12 and Frontier Channel 5.
Even so, Nexstar contends that Granites network agreements with NBC, ABC, CW and now Fox position the company unfairly in the market to set high advertising rates.
When you look at the market dynamics of (Fort Wayne) it doesnt take long to see that over time (Granite) is going to have a lock on the advertising there, said Joseph Jaffoni, whose firm Jaffoni & Collins Inc. is serving as Nexstars media consultant. This is not good for anyone.
Jaffoni said if Nexstar wins the case it will want a judge to triple the amount of damages based on Granites willful misconduct.
Officials at Granite in Fort Wayne declined to comment.
Fort Wayne attorney Steve Shine is a member of the Federal Communications Bar Association for lawyers who specialize in similar issues.
He said it appears that Nexstar is trying to accomplish through litigation what it couldnt do through negotiations with Fox.