COLUMBIA — Columbia and Boone County Mediacom customers will soon notice some channels missing from their cable lineups. They will be losing the St. Louis stations.
The two stations in question are the KSDK NBC affiliate on Mediacom channel 4 and the KETC PBS affiliate on Mediacom channel 19. Mediacom will still carry the local NBC and PBS stations, which carry all the same network programming as the St. Louis stations.
Randy Hollis, a spokesman for Mediacom, said the changes are scheduled to coincide with the Feb. 17 shift to all-digital broadcasting and cannot be avoided. According to Hollis, though digital signals are much clearer than their analog counterparts, they do not travel as far. So when stations in the St. Louis area make their government-mandated switch to all-digital broadcasting, Mediacom will no longer be able to receive enough signal to carry the stations for local customers.
Terri Gates, a public relations manager for KETC, disagrees with Hollis's reasoning. "We would prefer to continue to broadcast via Mediacom in Columbia," Gates said. "We have a very loyal viewer base in the area."
Gates spoke with the PBS station's chief engineer, who was unaware of any transition-related issue that would prevent Mediacom from carrying the station.
"Our signal is strong enough to be carried in Hannibal," Gates said. "I don't know of any plans to drop us there, so I don't see why we can't be broadcast to Columbia as well."
According to Gates, KETC has non-PBS programming that the local KMOS simply cannot afford to carry, like the BBC World Service.
Lynn Beall, the general manager of the KSDK St. Louis NBC affiliate, said she was unaware of any plans to discontinue broadcasting through Mediacom in Columbia, and she would have to look into the issue.
The change could go unnoticed by many casual viewers. Currently, the signal of both PBS stations is weak and hard to watch over local Mediacom. According to Hollis, once the digital transition takes place Mediacom will broadcast the digital signal for KMOS, which should come in crystal clear. Additionally, almost all programming, except local news, has to be blocked out from the St. Louis NBC affiliate and replaced with infomercials because of non-duplication rights. The only sporting events that KSDK broadcasts are Cardinal’s baseball games that are not picked up by Fox Sports Midwest.
Hollis says that in place of these stations, Mediacom plans to relocate ION, a network that shows mostly syndicated programming and movies, to the soon-to-be-vacant channel 19. The channel will be available to all basic cable subscribers; ION is currently Mediacom channel 46 and only available to customers with expanded basic cable or better.
Mediacom will also be adding the new WGN America HD station to its family cable lineup.
“It is our goal to offer a robust high definition lineup to our customers at no additional charge, and they can look forward to additional HD stations in the coming months," Hollis said.