Letter: Maine must protect community TV channels

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“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) and “Born Yesterday” (1950) portray the deleterious effect of corporate lobbying and should be required viewing for people in power. Charter Communications, new to Maine in 2016, has been the subject of complaints received by the attorney general’s office for non-compliance with state cable franchising laws and would benefit from the lessons taught in those two films.

Charter/Spectrum flexed its corporate muscles recently and joined with Comcast lobbyists to squash (along strict party lines) emergency legislation that would have benefited 300,000 cable subscribers in Maine. The one-page bill created by town managers, select boards and community television volunteers was sponsored by Sen. David Miramant, D-Camden. It would have prevented cable operators from moving the local public, educational and governmental, or PEG, channels from where they have been for 30 years, up into the 1300-channel locations. Charter has taken this step so the lower PEG channel locations can be leased to more shopping networks. Charter also refuses to carry local PEG channels in HD and will down-convert the HD signals to near VHS quality – even if HD signals are provided to them.

Both issues and other consumer protections will be in a new version of the bill that will be introduced this fall. The Community Television Association of Maine stands ready to debate these issues with cable industry representatives in a televised open forum as opposed to behind closed doors at the Statehouse. Stay tuned.

Tony Vigue
Standish

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