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Alliance calls price of cable access too steep

Mediacom proposes $80 an hour for production time; a city official says more talks are likely.
Wednesday, September 24, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:44 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Mediacom proposal for public-access television that calls for users to pay hourly fees for studio and airtime is “ridiculous,” a leader of the Columbia Media Resource Alliance said.

The cable television company on Sept. 15 submitted a proposal to the Columbia City Council that provides a public-access channel and studio through an agreement with KMIZ/KQFX. It requires users, however, to pay $80 per hour for studio production time, $35 an hour for program editing and $30 an hour for broadcast time.

David Wilson, vice president of the Columbia Media Resource Alliance, said the concept of “user fees that high is ridiculous.”

“It really goes against the spirit of the public access,” Wilson said. “I think it’s a shame that Mediacom has wasted this much of the city’s time and is now attempting to pass off this half-baked scheme.”

The city’s franchise agreements with Mediacom and Charter Communications requires that the companies provide studio facilities and equipment for use by the public on a public-access channel. Under its plan, Mediacom would cooperate with Charter to create the channel.

Mediacom estimates the two would spend $84,500 to get the channel running and $62,500 per year in operating expenses thereafter. The proposal would provide a full-time public-access channel director and use of a studio and broadcast equipment at KMIZ/KQFX, including a professional master controller that would guarantee programming 24 hours a day.

The Columbia Media Resource Alliance for more than two years has tried to work with the city and Mediacom to create a public-access channel. Wilson said he is confident the City Council is on top of the issue and will negotiate for a channel that is more accessible.

Susan Crigler, assistant city attorney, agreed the city probably will negotiate.

“I think it’s just a starting place,” she said of the proposal, “but they want to get moving on this.”

Mediacom and Charter said all proceeds from the user fees would go to a remote fund allocated for production staff and the future purchase of remote production equipment for use by users of the channel.

Gary Baugh, director of operations for Mediacom, said cable companies commonly charge user fees for public-access channels.

In St. Louis, however, Charter Communications provides public-access Channel 18 at no cost. In Jefferson City, Mediacom pays franchise fees to the city, which in turn funds the public-access channel JCTV. Mediacom said it and Charter plan to launch the public-access channels in January at the latest. Mediacom would use Channel 8 and Charter would use Channel 21.


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