Mediacom to drop St. Louis stations in Columbia, Boone County

Saturday, January 17, 2009 | 5:11 p.m. CST; updated 7:21 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 17, 2009

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.


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Charles Dudley Jr January 18, 2009 | 11:20 a.m.

No great loss losing only those 2 in the Columbia area IMHO.

(Report Comment)
Panama Red January 18, 2009 | 9:38 p.m.

I sure do miss my St Louis news, but so often it was simply unable to be viewed.

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 19, 2009 | 7:04 a.m.

"Mediacom will no longer be able to receive enough signal to carry the stations for local customers."

What a cop-out. If there's enough of an audience for the STL stations, Mediacom could bring them in over fiber.

(Report Comment)
EDWARD COE January 26, 2009 | 9:08 p.m.

Mediacom will make a mistake to drop KETC. Both PBS stations are watched and appreciated by many Columbians as sources of quality TV, but the St. Louis station is the top of all TV offerings in our area. Often KETC has high-quality programming that is not carried by KMOS. Correction: KMOS is described as a “local” station, but it emanates from Central Missouri State at Warrensburg, not from Columbia. BTW, it goes off the air overnight. Does anyone know how to communicate to the decision-makers?

(Report Comment)
Guy Wilson January 27, 2009 | 3:25 p.m.

KETC is a major loss to the community. It carries a number of programs that KMOS does not. I believe that Mediacom is granted a license to operate here by a city commission. Can they put pressure on Mediacom? Maybe the City Council should be contacted. Also, what about the FCC? Now that the transition to digital is being postponed for four months, will Mediacom also delay the removal of the St. Louis stations? KMOS' tower is much closer to Columbia, a little less than 40 Miles (near Tipton) as opposed to about 105 miles for KETC (located in Jefferson County).

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand January 27, 2009 | 3:51 p.m.

Guy, MO cities no longer grant video franchise licenses. That's now done at the state level. So the council probably has zero leverage.

(Report Comment)
Guy Wilson January 27, 2009 | 7:03 p.m.

So that would be the Missouri Public Service Commission? Has anyone tried contacting them?

(Report Comment)
Amy Carver February 18, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.

I never had a problem viewing either station. KETC is a big loss. They carry a lot of different programming than the Warrensburg PBS station does and are a 24 hour station. I think it is a cop out to save money. Funny though - they never drop our rates - only cut our programs. I already have ION and minus some evening syndicaton reruns and a few strange movies on the weekend they are all infomercials. They couldn't even replace channel 19 with a decent channel?? Has anyone figured out who customers can complain to?

(Report Comment)

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