MI: Lawsuit holds back digital cable switch

Posted on March 1, 2008 - 2:29pm.

from: Times Herald

Lawsuit holds back digital cable switch
Public access channel still widely available
Times Herald

Comcast announced a slate of programming changes Friday, including the removal of some channels from standard cable in order to move them to a high-definition format.

As part of the changes, effective March 27, Channel 900, the simulcast of public access standard-definition Channel 12, has been moved to Channel 901, which carries a digital signal. The announcement says programming available on Channel 12 will remain there but does not indicate if that could change after a lawsuit regarding moving public, educational and government channels is resolved.

Comcast announced last fall some public access channels - public, educational or government channels - were intended to follow the other channels across the digital divide. Cable companies are among broadcasters who are upgrading their signals to high-definition, a signal that can't be displayed by standard-defintion TVs.
Federal law mandates all over-air broadcasters must switch to high-definition signals by 2009.

If Comcast removes Channel 12, it would render standard-definition TV owners unable to see PEG broadcasting unless they buy converter boxes.

Some municipalities filed a lawsuit to stop the move and were successful in winning a restraining order preventing it until the lawsuit is settled.

"At this time (Channel 12) will remain on our channel lineup," Comcast spokesman Patrick Paterno said. He would not comment further.

Devotees of G4's Ninja Warrior, Telemundo's Al Rojo Vivo and MTV Jams, however, are out of luck. By the middle of April, the channels only will be available as part of a Digital Classic Package.

There are a variety of other changes included in Comcast's announcement. Mostly the changes deal with adding stations to the digital lineup.

Many expect all cable channels to cross to digital in the future, but Bill Irving, assistant city attorney in Dearborn, one of the municipalities involved in the Comcast lawsuit, said he's trying to keep access to PEG channels for everyone, not just the majority.

He said between 35% and 40% of Comcast customers in Michigan haven't gone digital.

"That's 400,000 people," he said.

Bob Clegg, Port Huron's city engineer, said the city "expressed (to Comcast) concerns about citizens having equal access" to PEG channels.

Previous to Jan. 14, Comcast had provided cameras and labor to the city for the production of City Council meetings. Now, the city pays for its own production, about $50 per meeting.

( categories: Comcast | MICHIGAN | State Franchises )