FL: Bright House Move to Make PGTV Cost More for Many

Posted on November 7, 2007 - 8:56am.

Note:A flaw in the Florida State Franchise left PEG channels open to sole carriage on digital channels as opposed to the analog channels that compose basic cable service. A real loss for fixed-income homes and seniors who want access to local civic news and information.

from: The Ledger

Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Bright House Move to Make PGTV Cost More for Many

By Tom Palmer
The Ledger

BARTOW | Watching Polk County Commission meetings and other local events on television will cost you extra after Dec. 11 in most parts of Polk County.

Bright House Networks' corporate officials have decided to move PGTV from Channel 19 in the basic cable tier to Channel 622 in the more expensive digital tier.

Comcast, which serves the Lake Wales and Bartow areas, does not plan any changes in its government channel lineup. It broadcasts meetings on Channel 33.

PGTV, which first went on the air full time in February 2004, airs live and recorded local government meetings, special events ranging from concerts to athletics and a number of locally produced and state network informational programs.

"It defeats the whole purpose," Cindy Rodriguez, the county's communications director, said of Bright House's plans. "I've been very distressed."

Rodriguez said county officials spent $50,000 on a two-year publicity campaign to persuade people to watch PGTV.

"It totally undermines the use of public funds," she said, adding there will be other expenses such as replacing logos on county vehicles and PGTV stationery and other materials.

She said Bright House officials told the county a month or so ago that the change was coming.

Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin said most of the network's customers were digital subscribers already, so he didn't think that many people would be inconvenienced.

He said the area of cable spectrum to which PGTV is being moved contains many popular channels, which means viewers are likely to run across PGTV when they're channel-surfing.

For nondigital subscribers, Bright House will offer converter boxes for $1 per month per television set, which Durkin said will provide PGTV as well as 15 other channels, such as 24-hour weather forecasts from two Tampa-area television stations and a health channel.

Durkin said the switch is part of a coming conversion of all television signals from analog to digital, which is supposed to be completed by February 2009. After that date, all televisions must be equipped to receive digital signals.

He said the change at this time is not designed to nudge customers toward the more expensive digital subscription.

The 24-hour broadcast is the result of an agreement approved in 2002 by the County Commission that was part of the 15-year cable franchise agreement for Bright House Networks and for Comcast.

[ Tom Palmer can be reached at tom.palmer@theledger.com or 863-802-7535. His blog on county government is at http://county.theledger.com. ]
Last modified: November 07. 2007 6:30AM

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