Gagen clarifies control of cable Channel 10
SILVERTHORNE – Breckenridge Town Manager Tim Gagen says cable TV channel 10 was always the town’s public access channel, and the local Resort Sports Network (RSN) affiliate understood its use of the channel was temporary.Gagen also said it was an RSN business decision initially to go with community programming on channel 10, and it remains a business decision to separate from it now that the town is taking channel 10 back as a true government-access channel.”RSN was doing community programming for itself, and we were a willing partner in that role,” Gagen said of the previous channel 10 arrangement with Breckenridge.RSN broadcasts on channels 3, 10 and 13 (depending on location), dedicating one channel to commercial programming and the others to community shows such as Summit Speakout and Community Cafe, as well as shots of Interstate 70 traffic conditions – pictures supplied by the Colorado Department of Transportation.Gagen’s comments concern a cable TV channel realignment due about Nov. 1, when Comcast unifies the county with common channel assignments.In the alignment, channel 10 will become the so-called PEG channel for all the town and county governments. The acronym stands for the public, education and government channel. Cable TV systems offer PEG channels as part of franchise agreements.RSN station manager Massey Pitts said the loss of channel 10 spurred a move away from community programming – only because it would be silly to compete with community programming planned for channel 10.”We have to decide what to do with channel 16. Why should we duplicate community programming?” Pitts said.”The thing that breaks my heart is that the Summit County Telecommunications Consortium (SCTC) has no idea come Nov. 1 what will be on channel 10. It may be dark for a time,” Pitts said.She also said she may bid to provide the PEG channel with programming, if the SCTC goes that route instead of doing the work itself.Pitts said RSN “went above and beyond” in nurturing community programming, and it would have been in the “public interest” for it to remain constant on channel 10.The loss of channel 3 has not created such a ruckus because that is purely a Comcast decision.Gagen said the “rhetoric” on the history and the pending channel alignment up to this point has been “one-sided” in news reports.His comments came Thursday during a meeting of the Mayors, Managers and Commissioners group.Silverthorne Town Manager Kevin Batchelder, who, like Gagen, sits on the SCTC, said the cutover to the new channels should occur Nov. 1.He said channels 2 through 24 would form the basic subscriber tier, and many other channels, like RSN, will be switching channel numbers.The SCTC is a working group of local government elected officials and staff members charged with negotiations on cable TV franchise agreements and the introduction of high-speed Internet access under the Beanpole program.While everybody knows channel 10 will be the PEG channel, Batchelder said programming and funding are still unknowns.He said the SCTC will be suggesting to the town and county governments that 20 percent of the franchise fees they collect be allocated to running the PEG channel.Each local government collects a 5 percent franchise fee on subscriber bills. Gagen said another possibility is a separate 50-cents-a-subscriber surcharge law to support the PEG channel, a fee already collected in Breckenridge.Still, Batchelder said the fee allocations would do little more than support a part-time PEG channel manager.Other options for operating the channel remain an alliance with the highly regarded Summit High School TV studio and video production program, and possibly subcontracting content back to RSN.The SCTC is sitting on a $150,000 reserve to buy capital equipment for the PEG channel. The money comes from the most recent cable TV franchise agreement the SCTC cut with Comcast predecessor AT&T Broadband.Dillon Town Manager Jack Benson, a SCTC member, said he is convening a meeting in late August of local television experts to explore programming options.Benson said the SCTC “was supportive of using the high school as the backbone” of PEG broadcasting, but many details would have to be worked out with the Summit School District.Gagen, who has run PEG channels while employed elsewhere, said programming can be as basic as a bulletin board message screen to the playing of VCR tapes to a full studio operation.Batchelder said something had to happen because the SCTC, which he called a “loose-knit structure,” will in a short time be overwhelmed with the responsibilities and tasks.Gagen noted that, however the PEG channel proceeds, local government would control programming. The way the rules are written to date, members of the public can’t show up and put their own programming on the air.In other parts of the country, that kind of access has made for some controversial programming.Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 227, or email@example.com.
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