Officials threaten to strip of its franchise By Mitchell Freedman STAFF WRITER
March 25, 2002
Most of the talk about Cablevision on Long Island lately has been on whether or not people will be able to watch the Yankees play this year. But, on the East End, a small but passionate group has been worried about something else entirely. Town board meetings. Now, with a self-imposed deadline coming up Wednesday , Riverhead officials are threatening to strip Cablevision of its franchise. "The gauntlet has been thrown down. We're in a war with them [Cablevision]," Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz said when his town board met earlier this month, noting the familiar TV camera was not in its normal place at the front of the room. A new crew showed up in Cablevision's place on Tuesday. A franchise has never been stripped on Long Island, town officials say. Because of the complexities of federal deregulation of the cable industry, it is unclear what would happen if Riverhead follows through on its threat. Some town officials said it would simply mean other firms could compete with Cablevision. Riverhead signed its last contract with Cablevision nine years ago. In December, the town board made its pledge if no new agreement was reached by Wednesday. The major issue keeping the two sides apart is Riverhead's demand that any new contract include a deep discount rate for basic cable service for senior citizens, something no longer in the Cablevision rate structure. The latest disagreement started after Cablevision, prompted by protests from the East End towns for a second public access channel (some town board meetings run for so long that the tape fills up all the allotted TV time), gave the towns what they asked. But, in exchange for the extra TV time, Cablevision took away the free videotaping it had been providing, leaving towns and villages to set up coverage on their own. At the March 5 meeting, Riverhead, whose town board has been the most vocal East End critic of Cablevision, failed to tape. So, there was no town board meeting shown that Friday night. "It's unfortunate that the Riverhead Town Board did not meet its responsibility to videotape their meeting," said William Powers, Cablevision's director of media relations. Powers said that after Cablevision reassigned Channel 59 for government and education broadcasts, it told Riverhead officials it would offer to train volunteers to tape the meeting and even lend them equipment. Joey MacLellan, executive assistant to the Riverhead supervisor, said that while the town was told by Cablevision that the taping would stop, one Cablevision official said they would continue to tape the town board and the school board as well. Meanwhile, in Southampton, the town board earlier this month heard complaints from a half-dozen people that their free speech rights were being abused because of Cablevision's new policy. Cablevision did provide someone at the last meeting, but town board member Linda Kabot said it would be the last time. Kabot said that, as a public service, she would be willing to bring an old video camera from home to future town board meetings. "I could set it up on a wide angle, so everyone could see what's going on," she said.
I went with directv this weekend. So far, everything is working well. To the person who posted that the Yankees are greedy, who is really the greedy one. Some famous singer complained about CVC being greedy. In the Newsday article, CVC won't even give senior discounts for cable access and Yes network is only charging what CVC charge its customers for programming and yet, CVC balks at the price. Jim Dolan thinks he is the top dog in NY but he isn't.
Actually, this is a non-event. I'm no fan of J.D.s management but, this kind of posturing by local pols when it comes time to renegotiate the franchise rights is an everyday occurance in the business. The locals scold and threaten give the rights to another operator or even to start their own cable company but its all hot air. It costs too much for another MSO or the local government to overbuild. They don't care as much about the consumer as about the franchise fee revenues...in the end they will sign with CVC.
Once one franchise let's go, others may follow! Brunswick OH, declined to renew the Cablevision franchise a few years ago. Long Island is NEXT. Too many people are upset with the cost of cable, many people have compared cable rates up here to their lower cost Florida rates? They know that their other cable carriers don't own as many enterprises as Cablevision, so why should they pay this inflated price. Can anyone say 'SYQUEST'? Here is an example of a company that HAD A GOOD THING until someone BETTER came along, and now they are out of business. CVC should take note! -RE