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MI: Grand Rapids’s GRTV and LiveWire Being Booted to Digital Tier

By saveaccess
Created 12/20/2007 - 4:51pm

from: Grand Rapids Community Media Center [1]

Grand Rapids’s GRTV & LiveWire Being Booted to Digital Tier

December 20, 2007

I am sad to note that as of January 15th, GRTV (channel 25) and LiveWire (channel 24) will no longer be seen on basic cable TV but instead on channels 917 & 916. Invoking their new options made possible by the State Uniform Video Franchise Act, Comcast has decided to put all community cabel access channels in the State of Michigan in the 900 tier of their digital cable service.

This change was announced with little advance notice to, and no consultation with, public, education or government access stations. It is estimated that nearly half of local cable subscribers do not subscribe to the more expensive digital cable and will need converter boxes to access the local content on GRTV and LiveWire. This is a sad development.

Comcast has said that basic service customers may call Comcast and receive one converter box “free” for one year. It comes with installation instructions, however if customers want assistance installing it, there will be a service charge. Unfortunately we have had numerous reports of members attempting to get the “free” box, only to be told that there is a $2 monthly fee per box, or that they must subscribe to digital to get these channels. Please let us know if you encounter any difficulties in taking Comcast up on their “offer”.

Even with this “free” converter, the change is full of problems. Folks have to proactively request a converter box. Only one box is “free” even if households have multiple TVs. Program listings for GRTV are not on the digital navigation and program guide system — making programs difficult to find. And finally, after one year, there will be a monthly fee for these boxes. This, in effect, make PEG channels into “premium” channels.

We encourage all of you on basic cable to request a converter box from Comcast (for free) to remain connected to the community through GRTV and LiveWire. We also encourage you to give us feedback on this change. For everyone, please encourage Comcast to include GRTV and LiveWire program information on their digital navigation guide. In the meantime, we encourage you to practice “surfing down” on your digital cable. Channels 917 and 916 are actually quite close to channel 2 if you continue to scroll down with your remote. (I’m sure there is a decent marketing concept there — just haven’t found it yet.)

We, in turn, will do our best to promote the new channel locations while still letting our legislators and Comcast know of our frustration and disappointment with the continued marginalization of community voices.

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