A television station in Huntsville, Ala., offered viewers nothing but a black screen for 12 minutes Sunday night — at the exact time that the CBS News program “60 Minutes” was broadcasting a report about potential political skulduggery involving the former Bush administration official Karl Rove in the conviction of a former Democratic governor of the state.
The interruption raised suspicions among some viewers, especially Democratic backers of Don Siegelman, the former governor, that partisan political interests might be behind the blackout.
Even some CBS executives wondered initially about the reasons for the disruption, though the general manager of the station, WHNT-TV, denied any ulterior motives, and immediately offered the report in its entirety on the station’s newscasts Sunday and Monday nights, as well as on its Web site.
“We know what our license means to us,” said Stan Pylant, the chief executive at the station. “There were no political motives in this.”
Mr. Pylant blamed a signal receiver. “The receiver failed to pick up the video from CBS,” he said. The station had no problems picking up CBS for the half-hour before “60 Minutes” started. The network’s Sunday evening news was on. But Mr. Pylant said that as he watched at home he saw the signal break off just as “60 Minutes” started.
“I really hoped the Siegelman report would be the third one they aired,” he said. It was not. It was first. WHNT had promoted the report all week because of the obvious interest in Huntsville.
The report quoted political figures from both parties questioning the bribery conviction of Mr. Siegelman and specifically included a charge from a “Republican operative” in the state who said Mr. Rove had urged her to try to get compromising pictures of Mr. Siegelman.
The station is part of a group formerly owned by The New York Times Company, purchased last year by an investment company, Oak Hill Capital Partners. That firm is managed by Robert M. Bass, one of a group of wealthy brothers who have all been major contributors to George W. Bush.
The investment company does not manage the stations, however. That is done by a separate company, Local TV L.L.C. That company’s chief executive, Bobby Lawrence, has also been a substantial contributor to Republican political candidates, including Mr. Bush.
Mr. Pylant said no one in either company had said or done anything “to sabotage our signal.” He pointed out that Oak Hill owns and Local TV manages three other CBS stations — though not in Alabama — and nothing had gone wrong with “60 Minutes” at any of those stations.
“This was just a G.M.’s worst nightmare,” he said. “But we’re replaying it. We have had a crawl up telling people where they can see it.” He added, “Believe me, I can get higher ratings than by going to a black screen.”