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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Charter Cable Stops Broadcast of Municipal Meetings

• Demands Payment to Continue to Air City Programming

BY BILL KOENEKER


Malibu city officials announced last week that Charter Cable stopped broadcasting municipal programming including city council meetings and planning commission sessions on March 20.
Local Verizon FiOS cable subscribers will continue to receive city broadcasts.
However, Verizon has advised the city that the broadcast will be unavailable from Monday, March 21, through Thursday, March 24.
Regular city programming will return on Friday, March 25, according to Verizon representatives.
The city will continue to offer live webstreaming of city council and planning commission meetings on its website. The meetings are also archived for future or repeat viewing, according to municipal officials.
Charter indicated it would stop carrying Malibu’s government access programming, which includes the city meetings and broadcasts of public service announcements, unless it receives about $900 per month, according to city officials.
City Manager Jim Thorsen, at a previous meeting, told city council members Verizon is connected to the new city hall and will not charge.
Charter insists that changes in California’s cable franchising law have left the cable giant off the hook to carry Malibu City TV without charging.
In a staff memo to city council members, the city attorney’s office opined they dispute Charter's interpretation, but the cable company won’t budge on its own interpretation of the law.
“There may be a fee for construction of a fiber optic line into the new city hall, unless the city signs a long-term agreement,” adds the staff memo.
The council was also told that Charter appears to be the only company to take such a stance.
According to a staff report, the dispute centers on the interpretation of certain sections of California’s statewide cable franchising law.
The city insists the law and legislative history supports the requirement that Charter carry the city’s channels without charge as it has in the past and points to Charter’s application for a state cable franchise where it stipulates that it would provide public, education and government access channels and the required funding as required by the public utilities code.
“Unless and until the city and Charter can agree on carriage for Malibu City TV, staff expects Charter will continue to refuse to carry Malibu City TV and channel 3 will remain empty of programming.
“Verizon has not made the same carriage demands as Charter, so Malibu City TV should remain available to subscribers of Verizon FiOS,” the staff report concludes.

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