Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/18/08 – Michigan Special Edition

Judges block Comcast channel switch
Warren wins local ruling; federal judge has similar decision.
by Mitch Hotts
Macomb Daily (MI)

A pair of court rulings late Monday appeared to have at least temporarily blocked Comcast’s controversial plans to switch community access channels but it wasn’t immediately clear whether the rulings had impacts on communities that are not involved in the lawsuits.   —>

Judges: Community access channels cannot be moved
Ann Arbor News (MI)

Comcast cannot move community access channels higher up the dial – and out of the reach of thousands of Michigan cable subscribers with analog televisions – under a temporary order issued earlier this week by a Macomb County judge.  Chief Circuit Judge David Viviano’s ruling could affect 400,000 Comcast customers statewide. Comcast is a major cable provider in Livingston County.   —>

Less access
Comcast channel plan not in public interest
Flint Journal First Edition (MI)

Comcast, having benefited richly over decades from its cable television monopoly in Michigan communities, should feel compelled to give something of value back.  Not much has been asked, although one small concession historically from Comcast to this community and others has been a public access channel for locally produced programming, which has been broadcast on Channel 17 in much of this area.

No more, says Comcast, which wants to relegate public access to a 900 number instead, freeing up the more convenient 17 for customers paying premium rates for exclusive programming.

It seems an arrogant slight, an insult from which advocates for keeping the traditional and more user-friendly access at 17 have won relief from federal and state courts, at least temporarily. Additional help could be on the way as U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, prepares to hold hearings on Comcast’s legal obligations vis-a-vis public, educational and government access (PEG).

Comcast is coming through as nothing short of selfish and insensitive. Public access is relied on by communities to share information about events and to air government proceedings in their entirety. Equally enriching, community-based producers – with messages to share but no ready medium – are able to show their own programs, some of which are popular and spark debate.

Comcast should take pride in keeping that access within easy reach of its subscribers. But the cable giant has already erected one barrier by shutting down its studios for taping, which forces local producers to come up with their own equipment.

As to the 900 channel switch, not only is it far more obscure, but for many subscribers it’s out of reach or unaffordable. Accessing a 900 channel would force those still using analog TV sets – and there are many – to either buy a digital, cable-ready set, or rent or buy a digital converter box for each set they use. Comcast had offered to provide free boxes for a year, after which its customers would have to begin paying, perhaps several extra dollars per month. Some subscribers who pay the lowest rates available do not receive 900 channels.

So Comcast has gotten what it bargained for – lawsuits, congressional hearings, a proposed customer boycott and a protest by the Producers Association, composed of angry local programmers.

May Comcast take the strong message to heart and remember that its great advantages should come with a tip of the hat to the people who have granted them.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, channel slamming, government access, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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