FL: Cable Channel Switch Coming to Florida Cities

Posted on November 24, 2007 - 10:15am.

from: Hernando Today

Cable Channel Switch Coming to Florida Cities

November 19, 2007
By Michael D. Bates

In three weeks, Bright House Network customers will have to be more creative with their remote control to find their government access channels.

On Dec. 11, the company is relocating channels 14, 19 and 20 from the easily-found lower basic tier to the upper digital channel tier, where some people may have trouble finding them.

Also, customers whose television isn’t digital-ready will have to pay $1-a-month for a converter box to receive the channels.

County commissioners have joined their counterparts in the Tampa Bay area to protest the move, which they believe will restrict residents’ access to government meetings and create a budgetary hardship.

They directed their legal staff to fire off a letter to Bright House expressing that concern and asking the company to do its civic duty in leaving the channels where they are.

So far, Bright House has not changed its mind.

But that hasn’t stopped the county from trying.

County Attorney Garth Coller, in an Oct. 26 letter to Bright House’s Director of Government and Public Relations Ray Graber, asked the company again to reconsider its plans. And he is hoping he has the power of law to bolster his argument.

The Bright House franchise agreement and the Federal Cable Act require those channels to be on the basic tier, according to Coller.

“Only the new state cable TV legislation permits this move, and it is a fairly debatable issue whether or not the state law applies in a jurisdiction with an ongoing franchise agreement or even if the state law is permissible legislation in light of the Cable Act federal law mandate,” Coller wrote.

If some kind of last-minute agreement isn’t worked out between Bright House and local government jurisdictions, then the Hernando County board of commissioners have “reserved the right to authorize litigation as may be necessary to prevent the channel move and-or any additional charge to Hernando County Bright House customers who wish to receive the government access channels on the terms guaranteed by the franchise agreement and federal law,” Coller said.

County Commissioner David Russell said he hopes this legal “saber-rattling” will persuade Bright House to change its mind.

Those public access channels are heavily viewed in Hernando County by people who can’t drive to county commission meetings, fire district meetings and other public events, he said.

Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin said the channel switchover is still scheduled to take place Dec. 11.

For people who already have digital cable, the change will be seamless, he said. Viewers can tune to channels 619 and 620 to see their government access programming, he said.

Those who don’t have digital capability on their television have a choice: Pay the extra $1 monthly fee for the converter box and get those channels — or don’t pay it and continue to get their current programming, minus the government access programs.

To assist people in these changes, Bright House has already been running scrolls on the affected channels and sending out informational flyers with customer bills.

Also starting Dec. 11, Durkin said digital customers will see nine new additions: two Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) channels and two more weather channels.

The Federal Communications Corp. will require all television programs to be broadcast in the digital format by 2009. However, many people still have the analog sets that require converter boxes to get the digital broadcast.

( categories: FLORIDA | State Franchises )