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TV station picks Bears over Colts

– Fans in the Fort Wayne area who tuned in to see the Colts play the Carolina Panthers were greeted by “Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course” on Sunday afternoon.

For the first time in at least a decade, a local TV station decided the Colts weren’t the team it wanted to broadcast.

The decision was made by the local Fox affiliate, which is under the umbrella of Granite Broadcasting Corporation and part of Indiana’s NewsCenter.

The Fox channel had the rights to the Colts’ home game, but it could only broadcast one game because CBS had the doubleheader Sunday. Indiana’s NewsCenter chose the late-afternoon Chicago Bears game at Oakland over the Colts’ 27-19 loss that dropped them to 0-11.

“The buck stops with me,” Jerry Giesler, president and general manager of Indiana’s NewsCenter, said in a telephone interview. “We talked a lot about it internally. Of course, the year in, year out logical choice would be the Colts. Absolutely, no question. The reason we went with the Bears was to follow the compelling story, their (playoff) hopes alive, a new quarterback.”

The local Fox affiliate acted in accordance with the league’s TV contracts, NFL spokesman Dan Masonson said.

Masonson wrote in an email to The Journal Gazette that Fort Wayne is considered a “secondary market for the Colts,” meaning Fort Wayne TV affiliates are required to show only Indianapolis’ road games.

“When it comes to home games … it is a programming decision made by the local affiliate,” Masonson wrote.

Fort Wayne is considered a secondary market because its TV signals reach to within 75 miles of Indianapolis, according to Masonson. Fort Wayne isn’t considered a secondary market for any other NFL city, including Chicago, so Indiana’s NewsCenter could have decided to show any Fox game.

“We’re all Colts fans, at heart, at Indiana’s NewsCenter,” said Giesler, adding the station was flooded with calls Sunday.

“It would be crazy for me to try to say we got more in support of (our decision) than there were against us. But we’re broadcasters. Our signal heads west toward Chicago and there were a lot of people who loved what we did as well as a lot of people within the city limits who did too”

Giesler said there are weeks when the Bears aren’t on locally and those fans are irate.

“My apologies go to all the Colts fans who thought we let them down,” Giesler said. “But I think we also do our job of giving balance throughout the year of giving critical games.”

WANE, the CBS affiliate that carries AFC games locally, showed Cleveland at Cincinnati in the early game, then New England at Philadelphia.