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Tuesday 31st August 2004

TWIDW Update: PBS Stations May Lose Rights To Doctor Who Reruns
(posted 31st Aug 2004, 4:20am - TWIDW post #0246)
Short version - it looks like the Sci-Fi Channel is negotiating for exclusive rights to reruns of the original Doctor Who series in the US, replacing the existing system where individual public TV stations air it in some markets.
Maryland Public Television , one of eight public TV systems that still airs reruns of the original series of Doctor Who episodes (An Unearthly Child through Survival), is sending out alerts to viewers that the future of Doctor Who on their station (and any public TV station) is in doubt. Here's the message I received:

Hello. I'm making an effort to contact all of the Dr. Who fans that have recently contacted us to inquire about Maryland Public Television's Dr. Who scheduling.

I want you to be aware you may see changes in Dr. Who programming on MPT.

At present episodes are being skipped because they ahve not been offered to us for broadcast.

Sadly, we are even further limited at present because the BBC is considering terminating PBS's rights to air this series and awarding exclusive rights to the Sci-Fi Channel. Until this is resolved, MPT can only air episodes which it currently has in-house, a total of just 30 episodes.

Angela Myers
Viewer Services
Maryland Public Television

Maryland Public TV airs the episodes in "movie format", so that may refer to 30 stories. The stations airing the series are at different points in the 26 year run, so each station probably has a different set and number of stories in house that can be rerun. Fans have been wondering what the status of Doctor Who on MPT was since the September schedule revealed that most of the Tom Baker stories were being skipped.
It's not a big surprise that there would be negotiations for a cable network to get the national rights. The new Doctor Who series should air in the US sometime in 2005 on *some* cable channel. It might create fresh interest in the original series. If Sci-Fi (or anyone) has national rights to the old episodes, they would be prepared to cash in on public interest.
For fans who live in areas where Doctor Who still airs (full list below), it would mean the loss of being able to watch the series over the air. And if you have Comcast cable be aware that some Comcast systems have moved Sci-Fi to the digital tier. For most US fans, having Doctor Who on Sci-Fi would mean they could finally see the reruns on TV again after many years (assuming Sci-Fi would actually air the episodes).
As of this writing, it is still unknown which network(s) are negotiating for rights to air the new Doctor Who episodes in the US.
The stations airing Doctor Who in the USA:
New Hampshire Public TV - Saturdays at 11PM, 1 episode per week
WYBE 35 Philadelphia, PA - Saturdays at 11PM, 2 episodes per week
Maryland Public TV - Saturdays at roughly Midnight, complete movies each week
WCET 48 Cincinnati, OH - Saturdays at 11PM, 2 episodes per week
WILL 12 Urbana, IL - Saturdays at 11:40PM, 1 episode per week
Iowa Public TV - Saturdays at 11:35PM, 2 episodes per week
KUED 7 Salt Lake City, UT - Saturdays at 11:30PM, 1
episode per week
KBTC 28 Tacoma, WA - Saturdays at 7PM (repeat at 12:30AM), 2 episodes per week
This is unlikely to affect the status of Doctor Who on BBC Kids in Canada, as Sci-Fi Channel is not available in Canada.

Benjamin F. Elliott - This Week In Doctor Who