Take it to city hall or Charter will take your TV stations from you
Updated 9-8-2008

Charter negotiates Russian-style: Will accept 100% of everything
Daily Sparks Tribune 9-5-2008 / Barbwire Update 9-7-2008

August 28, 2008
From Dennis Myers' Reno News & Review blog

Reid ready to join legal action against Charter Cable

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid says he is prepared to join the City of Reno’s lawsuit to force Charter Cable to keep public access stations on the analog tier.

Charter wants to move community stations 12 to 17 onto the three-digit premium tier where cable customers would have to pay a monthly fee and pay for a converter box to be installed.  A citizens’ group brought the problem to public attention and it and the City of Reno are planning a lawsuit if an agreement cannot be worked out in talks with Charter, which agreed to delay the change for 90 days.

In an interview with the News & Review, Reid said, “So I’m glad—it’s my understanding that the City of Reno … filed a lawsuit and I’m glad. I’d like to join in that. I think it’s wrong.”

Under federal law, the cable industry, in exchange for its use of the public’s infrastructure, must fund public access programming and provide channels for it. In northern Nevada, Sierra Nevada Community Access Television teaches residents how to produce their own television shows and also carries the meetings of local governing bodies.

Cable systems in Wisconsin, Vermont and other states are also trying to move the analog stations. 

Each analog station will convert to four digital channels, and across the nation consumer groups are organizing to block the moves to the premium tier.

Reid said, “I think public access channels are what TV, what it should be about—access, allowing people to watch a city council meeting, a county commission meeting. I’ve appeared on SNCAT many times. I think the audience is unique. It’s people who really care. And I think the law as it now stands said that if you’re going to move it to the digital, it has to be something people can afford. Five dollars, I think a month, is what they’re charging. That’s $60 a year. People who are senior citizens who watch this … can’t afford that.”


PLEADING FOR A VOICE — Bunchie Tyler, local president of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, addresses the Reno City Council on Aug. 14. "I have shows where we have saved people's lives. We do a show of what's called erasing the stigma of mental illness," she said. Tyler and her organization have produced a community access program for the past 15 years. Listening, from left, are Reno City Clerk Lynnette Jones, councilmembers David Aiazzi, Jessica Sferrazza and Pierre Hascheff, city manager Charles McNeely and Mayor Bob Cashell. Tyler's plea echoed the words of Sacramento Community Access Television Executive Director Ron Cooper, who said "the message of television is 'you are inadequate. If your voice, your face, your color, your issue do not appear on television, you don't matter.' " Cooper made his remarks to the Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) founding board in 1991. Nothing has changed.

ReSurge.TV may broaden legal action to include ratepayers and program producers outside of Reno

RENO, Aug. 25, 2008 – A consumer organization is urging northwestern Nevada cable TV ratepayers and program producers to ask their local governments to defend them against Charter Communications' attempt to destroy community television stations.

UPDATES 8-28-2008

   Carson City was supposed to go dark on its access channel on Tuesday, Aug. 26, with its government channel temporarily remaining simulcast on analog and digital. Apparently, our pressure here caused Charter to also relent in Carson.

LATE WORD FROM DOUGLAS COUNTY: So far, Charter has left us on our Channel 16 (Carson Valley) & 19 (Tahoe) spots, only commenting to the County Manager that they will “probably move us sometime in the future."

So far, so good. We're batting 1.000.

   John Oceguera's BDR has been posted. (BDR No. 278, Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor; Revises provisions governing PEG access channels; 8/20/2008)

   The Sparks City Council did not touch the issue on Monday. The Reno city attorney had nothing new to report to the council on Wednesday.

   No feedback as yet from Tuesday's Washoe County Commission meeting. (They have split from SNCAT and gone to a subcontractor. Their 8/26 meeting had no audio on channels 17/217.)

Unscripted Ending
The picture gets blurry for public access television.

Governing Magazine, Feb. 2008

Late Friday, the Reno City Council agreed to delay legal action against Charter in exchange for the cable monopoly's commitment not to banish public, educational and government (PEG) television channels to the high-cost, low-audience digital tier.

ReSurge.TV also announced that it would refrain from legal action to see if Charter is dealing in good faith.

"I was informed that once this issue goes to court, all local flexibility disappears," stated Andrew Barbano, a Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) program host and producer.

"We are continuing our legal research and will be prepared to go to court if we see no progress," he added. The transition had been scheduled regionwide for Aug. 26.

Barbano urges cable consumers in Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties to use the public comment agenda at upcoming meetings to embolden local officials to join Reno and ReSurge.TV in taking action against Charter's attempt to skim a multi-million dollar windfall by a strong-armed takeover of the public bandwidth.

Charter meets with Access Carson at 10:00 a.m. today. It remains uncertain whether the 90-day moratorium extended to Reno will be expanded to Carson and Douglas, or even Sparks and Washoe. ReSurge.TV is prepared to include Sparks, Washoe, Carson and Douglas ratepayers in its legal filings if individuals and programmers in each jurisdiction request it.

"We will act if the governments refuse," Barbano said.

The Sparks City Council meets today (Aug. 25) at 3:00 p.m. The Washoe County Commission meets Tuesday, Aug. 26, at 2:00 p.m. The Carson City Board of Supervisors meets on Sept. 4 at 8:00 a.m. The Douglas County Commission meets on Sept. 4 at 1:00 p.m. (The Reno City Council has agendized an update at its meeting beginning at 10:00 a.m. this Wednesday, Aug. 27, item J.12.)

Links to the respective local government websites with meeting addresses and contact information will be posted with this bulletin at ReSurge.TV.

The website also features the Reno citizens cable committee archive going back to 2002 and Barbano's last four Sunday Sparks Tribune columns detailing this issue.

Late last week, Nevada State Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, ordered a bill draft from the Legislative Counsel Bureau in Carson City, purportedly to modify the vaguely-worded 2007 law which Charter is using to justify its channel shuffle. (BDR [Bill Draft Request] No. 278, Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor; Revises provisions governing PEG access channels; 8/20/2008)

Correcting a misconception

   Many ratepayers are mistakenly blaming the Reno City Council, when it was 2007 legislative action which resulted in a new law which Charter is abusing to justify this maneuver.

    The City of Reno stood with AARP, state consumer advocate Eric Witkoski and Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, in criticizing the excesses of the legislation. Reno is the only local government of the five affected to stand up for its citizens. Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Douglas county residents should push their representatives to join. (Contact info)

A Reno native raised in Fallon and now North Las Vegas assistant fire chief, Oceguera acted at the behest of his colleagues Bernie Anderson and Debbie Smith, both D-Sparks, and David Bobzien and Sheila Leslie, both D-Reno. Oceguera's commerce committee counterpart in the upper house, Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, personally contacted Charter executives.

Charter has tried the same maneuver in Wisconsin and been stymied thus far, as has Comcast in Michigan.

Contributions to the cable ratepayer legal defense fund may be made by credit or debit card through ReSurge.TV, the organization website. Checks may be mailed to ReSurge.TV, P.O. Box 10034, Reno, NV 89510.

Former Nevada Public Utilities Commission attorney Neil Grad and paralegal Tom Hudson have volunteered their services, but assistance is needed to cover costs and expenses.

Barbano's live-call/chat-crawl/talk-rock show is cablecast Monday through Friday from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Reno-Sparks-Washoe SNCAT/Charter channels 16 and 216. It is also simulcast online at Barbwire.TV, part of SNCAT's community radio station KJIV.org (developmental KJIV-fm).

Barbano has invited Charter executives onto his live program to take phone calls from their customers.

Charter has not responded.

Hope springs eternal.

Stay tuned.


Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 & 216
2:00-4:00 p.m. PDT, 21:00-23:00 GMT/CUT/SUT
What may well be the first marriage of talk radio, talk TV and webcast webchat


Breaking News: Fight Back!

WE WIN ROUND ONE — As the Barbwire show scooped the state on Friday, Aug. 22: Charter has caved in and postponed the execution date for 90 days. Thanks for bringing the heat. See the Barbwire in the Sunday Sparks Tribune for all the inside baseball. Be well. Raise hell. AB

The evil empire eats its appetite
Community television wins a 90-day stay of execution
Barbwire / Sparks Tribune / 8-24-2008

How we sank to this sorry state of affairs
Dennis Myers/ Reno News & Review / 8-21-2008

Reno city council votes unanimously to sue Charter Communications
to keep community TV accessible


Bandwidth bandidos admit to their greed
Report from Reno City Hall
Barbwire / Sparks Tribune 8-17-2008

All three local TV network affiliates covered the Aug. 14 Reno City Council meeting as did the Reno Gazette-Journal and Daily Sparks Tribune.

The people vs. Charter's pirate ship
Time to sue the bastards: Lawyers wanted

Barbwire / Sparks Tribune 8-10-2008

Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Bad news for cable subscribers, good news for Hug High School
Barbwire / Sparks Tribune 8-3-2008
Donate to the cable ratepayer legal defense fund at ReSurge.TV

City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee archives
and local, state and national cable info

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