Comcast urged to pay NCTV |

Comcast urged to pay NCTV

Local TV organizers are launching a letter-writing campaign against cable giant Comcast, which they say is holding back on hundreds of thousands of dollars for Nevada County’s public-access station.

Comcast recently invested $9 million in service upgrades for its 10,000 subscribers in western Nevada County, but it has not reached vital franchise agreements with Nevada City, Grass Valley and Nevada County.

Federal law requires that dominant cable companies financially assist cable-access stations such as Nevada County Television. NCTV needs at least $200,000 a year just to continue running, said station Executive Director Lew Sitzer, and the station is in peril without increased franchise payments from Comcast.

Neither side is revealing exactly how much NCTV is now asking for, but it is definately more than the $30,000 a year Comcast is required to give now.

To prod Comcast into making a deal, local officials have launched the letter-writing effort spearheaded by Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer.

Residents who support NCTV are encouraged to send letters to the cable company expressing their frustration with the process, Sitzer said. In the next few months, Sitzer also plans to speak with council members, hold a telethon, and host a garage sale – all aimed at finding money and support for the fledgling station.

McAteer also plans to visit the Comcast headquarters in Philadelphia within the next few weeks to explain to the company’s president how “unique” NCTV is. Mark Miller, Nevada City’s city manager, said he might also accompany McAteer.

Miller said he doesn’t believe Comcast fully understands the significance of NCTV in the community.

Susan Gonzales, Comcast’s senior communications director, says the company has a clear understanding of the community because “Comcast is operated by local residents; our technicians are local.”

Comcast said it is trying to move forward, and that “franchise negotiations take place over time and simultaneously we invested in the community over time,” Gonzales said, explaining that Comcast is committed to reaching an agreement that will satisfy both parties.

But members of the local negotiating team say they are ready to close the deal and are just waiting for Comcast to sign the paperwork. They believe the cable company is stalling to keep from paying what it should.

The station, which airs daily programs on Channel 11, now receives money from the Superintendent of Schools Office. But that money source will end in June, and the current contracts with Comcast give only $30,000 to NCTV. Sitzer said that while McAteer may have saved the station, the superintendent got involved because he was expecting to be reimbursed for some of the money.

But Comcast said it should not be expected to pay for the station’s operating costs.

“I want to make it clear that it is not the responsibility of Comcast to fund the operating cost. We will negotiate for capital funds for equipment and facilities according to federal law,” Gonzales said Thursday.

McAteer said that Comcast is just not playing fair. Not only have local agencies been critical in negotiating a deal that saved Comcast $1 million by routing a fiber optic cable through Beale Air Force Base, he said, but they also have allowed Comcast to upgrade its system, bringing the cable company more profit.

Gonzales says that Comcast appreciates what the local community has done, especially in smoothing the way with Beale, but such aid is unrelated to the franchise negotiations.

In the end, supporting NCTV is good for Comcast’s business, station supporters say.

“It gives (residents) a reason to go with Comcast rather that any other cable company,” Miller said. “Almost everybody in town likes to see the creative stuff on Channel 11.”

How to help

To show support for Nevada County Television, or NCTV, in its ongoing negotiations for franchise fees from Comcast, write to:

Deborah M. Luppold, Vice President of Comcast

Franchising and Government Affairs

9605 SW Nimbus Ave.

Beaverton, OR 97221

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