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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Channel 13 WYCN’s future still unknown as Comcast eyes closure in Nashua

NASHUA – The news that WYCN-TV Channel 13 is closing came as somewhat of a shock to the producers and new owners.

Gordon Jackson and Carolyn Choate, general manager and producer and on-air talent, said they found out their cable distributor, Comcast, would drop the station this week. Comcast has earmarked the end of the station for about Aug. 15. ...

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NASHUA – The news that WYCN-TV Channel 13 is closing came as somewhat of a shock to the producers and new owners.

Gordon Jackson and Carolyn Choate, general manager and producer and on-air talent, said they found out their cable distributor, Comcast, would drop the station this week. Comcast has earmarked the end of the station for about Aug. 15.

Jackson and Choate, of Nashua, are the two-person husband-and-wife team that has been working to keep the station afloat for many years. They said since they rejoined the “low power” station after selling it off, they’ve been working to restore and expand it into a digital operation. In total, their restoration efforts will cost about $6 million, and those plans are moving forward, even with the station’s fate lingering in Comcast’s hands.

Choate said perhaps Comcast didn’t know all the strides the station was making to reform and update, and once the cable giant learns more, it might decide to keep the station around. So far, Comcast said the minimal viewership and “inconvenience” factor are too high for airing to continue.

“Comcast perceives WYCN-13 Nashua as an inconvenience as they segregate its signal to Nashua, Londonderry, Peterborough systems only, and not to the Boston system as a whole,” Comcast wrote the station.

Choate said the station’s digital move could help WYCN reach more audiences “100 fold,” or more, with viewership extending to Massachusetts. It will take the team a few weeks to go completely digital, however, but it’s willing to upgrade.

“Comcast did not know, to the best of our knowledge, they didn’t know that Gordon and I were hired back … to come back and reinvigorate the station with local programming,” Choate said. “And … I don’t think they knew we would be moving so quickly to go digital.”

The couple remains optimistic the station will be able to stay on the local dial and continue its operating functions.

The Nashua pair sold the station initially a few years ago after their founder Robert H. Rines died and left it to them in his will. Choate and Jackson started working for Rines in 1988, producing locally focused content for the station then.

The couple sold the station to Binnie Media in February 2012. In May, Over the Air Broadcasting bought the station for $4 million. OTA brought back Jackson and Choate to keep up their local television show “Main Street,” along with others, to connect with viewers.

Chief of Operations for OTA Carol LaFever, who is based on the West Coast, said she was “not anticipating” Comcast would look to stop carrying their channel. That fact was not known to them before the multi-million dollar sale. And without the cable distribution, the station’s new digital capabilities won’t be able to reach viewers.

“Comcast has been cordial, responsive, professional and … I’m guardedly optimistic that once we introduce them to what we’re doing and the restoration of the programming,” LaFever said, “I think some of their concerns will be ameliorated.”

Jackson and Choate together produce about 12 hours of original content on the channel, which runs the affiliated My Family TV content. The couple said they’ve received a lot of encouraging feedback, since spreading the news the station may soon be closed down.

Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli reached out to the channel in support, and personally wrote a letter to Comcast asking for them to reconsider.

“WYCN has a proven record of delivering quality local programming to a wide audience throughout the communities I represent in Council District Five,” Pignatelli wrote. “I believe the station is on track to be a viable resource, once again, for the local communities. I hope you will agree to continue supporting this station.”

Letters also have come from the Boys & Girls Club and NH Symphony. Choate said she has reached out to Nashua Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte, a Nashua native, and Jeanne Shaheen.

Samantha Allen can be reached at 594-6426 or sallen@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Allen on Twitter (@Telegraph_SamA).