Fox TV appears, then cut

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 23, 2002

[01/23/02]Fox television mysteriously appeared on Vicksburg cable Tuesday night. It was an accident, television executives said this morning, and they quickly turned the signal off.

Still, the glitch could be a good sign for NFL fans and those who like other Fox programs.

“Anticipating that we would be successful in our negotiations with Fox, we were doing some testing,” said Larry Risner, director of marketing for WEHCO, parent company of Vicksburg Video.

“I wasn’t aware that it had gone testing in the field,” Risner said. “It kind of caught me by surprise, but things happen.”

The programming appeared on channel 65.

“We are setting up a dish to carry Fox,” said Vicksburg Video manager Beau Balch. “They had sent us the authorization slips. … That was just a test.”

The deal with Fox is not final, but could be closed soon, Risner said.

The mishap occurred because a “module” was left on in Vicksburg, Balch said. While testing, the authorization codes for the Fox channel were punched in, and the station was added to Vicksburg Video’s non-premium tier channels. The signal was stopped at about 9:30 a.m. It had been on since before 8 Tuesday night.

WEHCO has been negotiating with Fox over FoxNet, a satellite channel that broadcasts various Fox programming, including major sporting events.

Based in Little Rock, WEHCO operates 14 cable systems in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi.

Vicksburg lost Fox in October when Jackson television station WDBD dropped it in favor of Warner Brothers programming.

Balch said at the time that a few Jackson stations were negotiating about becoming Fox stations and that the company would wait it out. Had that occurred, Fox would have been a “must carry” channel under federal regulations.

Talks stalled, though, leaving Vicksburg without World Series coverage for the first time in about 50 years.

The loss of Fox has also meant the loss of Saints games and NASCAR events, as well as other such popular shows as “The Simpsons.”

Other regional cable companies that had been using the WDBD signal signed up for FoxNet satellite delivery.

Two weeks ago, Risner said negotiations were nearly complete and the company hoped to ink a deal with Fox before Super Bowl XXXVI on Feb. 3.