Comcast: Customers won’t pay more for NCTV
Armed with a recent telephone survey, Nevada County’s main cable TV provider says it now has data that show customers don’t want to pay more to support a local public-access station.
Area residents just aren’t willing to pay higher cable rates that would be needed to give Nevada County Television organizers what they want, said Karen Munro, Comcast’s regional vice president.
The survey is the most recent salvo in an ongoing skirmish between Comcast and western Nevada County officials who want the cable giant to pay more to support NCTV, the area’s public-access station.
Federal law requires cable companies provide funding for a local public-access station. But negotiations between the Nevada County, Grass Valley, Nevada City and the cable provider are stalled as they haggle over what is a fair contribution.
Currently, Comcast provides $30,000 a year. But NCTV officials say they need between $200,000 and $300,000 per year to stay on the air.
Such an increase, Munro said, likely would be passed on to Comcast customers in the form of higher rates.
The company’s previous agreement with local government has expired, but Comcast said it will continue contributing at its current rate until a new agreement is reached.
Munro said Comcast believes in public access stations, but that it must take into consideration the wishes of all its customers as it faces increased competition from satellite dish companies that aren’t required to finance public-access stations.
The survey Comcast is using was conducted by a private consulting firm from Jan. 25 to Feb. 3 and included 303 cable customers. While Comcast did not reveal the way questions were phrased, results said that 80 percent of respondents weren’t interested in paying more money to finance facilities and production equipment for a public access station.
About 85 percent also indicated that they did not want their cable company to add more public-access channels.
These results contradict those from another survey that was conducted in October 2003, when Foothill Community Access Television was western Nevada County’s public-access station. This survey was done for FCAT by the consulting firm the Buske Group in preparation for the fee negotiations with Comcast.
Four hundred people were interviewed by phone – 200 of them Comcast subscribers.
Of those, 75 percent said it was “important” or “very important” to have cable TV channels that feature programs about area residents, organizations, events, schools, and government. NCTV has since replaced FCAT.
The previous survey also said that customers are willing to pay an average of $1.61 more for a pubic access station. Comcast representatives said the increase could be larger if NCTV gets all it has requested.
Comcast officials said NCTV supporters should turn to the cities and the county for help. They receive a share of revenue generated from fees that the cable company now collects.
Currently, this fee equals about 5 percent of gross profits from the cable company’s 10,000 subscribers in this area.
The county received about $117,000 from the fee in 2004, said Chief Information Officer Stephen Monaghan, adding that next year it will increase because of Comcast’s recent upgrades.
Most of the money from the fee goes into the county’s general fund – minus $15,000 it earmarked for NCTV. Grass Valley and Nevada City together also give NCTV $15,000, he said.
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