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For the past several years, countless hours of CBS' weekend sports coverage has been pre-empted locally by Channel 4 in favor of paid programming. WIVB-TV has been willing to "black out" virtually anything other than NFL and MLB telecasts. Well, Major League Baseball apparently is no longer immune to this paid programming epidemic at Buffalo's CBS affiliate.

On Saturday, May 15, for the first time ever, Channel 4 pre-empted CBS' Major League Baseball coverage. The nationally televised 1 p.m. Dodgers-Astros contest was not available locally, since Channel 4 decided they could make more money by running 3 1/2 hours of "commercials." To make matters worse, TCI of New York and its 60 channel cable system could not find space to pick up this telecast from CBS stations in either Erie, Pa., or Rochester, even though channels 20, 21 and 22 are totally vacant.

Baseball fans shouldn't assume this is a one-time-only move by Channel 4, either. As of this writing, WIVB-TV was also planning to pass on the Saturday, May 22, 1 p.m. Braves-Mets encounter, and the local cable systems were not scheduled to pick up this telecast, either.

If this continues all season, Western New Yorkers will be shut out of CBS' entire baseball package, which includes attractive games featuring the Blue Jays, Yankees and Pirates.

But then why should we allow live sports to interfere with Channel 4's apparent endeavor to become a full-time home shopping network?

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