WI: Charter is dropping cable deal with Madison; Madison City Channel

Posted on May 22, 2008 - 6:01am.

from: Wisconsin State Journal

Charter is dropping cable deal with Madison; Madison City Channel, WYOU could move to triple digits


Charter Communications is opting out of its cable franchise deal with Madison, which may mean changes for the city's government and public access TV stations.

Charter has told the city it is dropping the franchise deal in favor of a statewide franchise allowed under a recent change in the law regulating cable TV providers, city attorney Michael May said in a memo to Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and city managers.

The move means Charter is no longer subject to the city's franchise agreement or law, which guaranteed a prime spot on the dial for the city's channels and delivered $419,000 annually for community broadcasting, city officials said.

A Charter spokesman could not be immediately reached Tuesday.

Under the change, Madison City Channel, the award-winning local government station that broadcasts city meetings and provides other public service programming, could be moved from its place on Channel 12 to a channel somewhere in the triple digits, station manager Brad Clark said.

"That would be truly significant," Clark said. "If that changes, we've got a lot of re-education to do with the Madison public."

WYOU, the city's public access station seen on Channel 4, could also be moved, Clark said.

Charter, Clark noted, locates Wisconsin Eye, the public station that covers state government, on a triple digit digital station.

Charter's move may also affect future funding for the city's two city stations.

Currently, under a three-year agreement, Charter charges 63 cents per subscriber each month for public education and government channels. The fee provides $272,000 to Madison City Channel this year, nearly half its revenue, and $139,000 to WYOU, most its revenue, said Pat Skaleski of the city's comptroller's office.

The Legislature would have to continue the fee in 2010 and beyond, or the city would have to cover the revenue loss, Clark said.

"I think there is a tremendous political will in this community, of all communities, to keep a channel like this going," he said. "The ability to keep track of your government is not a luxury. It's actually a basic service.

"I think we're going to survive," Clark said. "We'll see what happens."

( categories: State Franchises | WISCONSIN )