In an effort to appease local groups pushing for a public-access television channel, Mediacom, Columbia’s largest cable provider, has announced its intent to begin accepting pre-produced programming this month.
Gary Baugh, director of operations, said Mediacom has decided to “take the initiative” because of an increase in interest from residents who want to use the public-access channel and the Columbia City Council’s slow pace in addressing the issue.
The city’s franchise agreements with Mediacom and Charter Communications require that the companies provide studio facilities and equipment for use by the public on public-access channels. Mediacom on Sept. 15 submitted on behalf of both companies a proposal to provide a public-access channel and studio through an agreement with KMIZ/KQFX. It would require users to pay $80 per hour for studio production time, $35 an hour for program editing and $30 an hour for broadcast time. The new initiative will broadcast programming produced by outside equipment while the council decides on the proposal.
“We’re making it available,” Baugh said. “There are people out there that want to make use of the public-access channel.”
Mediacom has yet to decide when it will begin airing the programs on Channel 8.
“We are supportive of them airing anything that is locally produced and is community-based programming,” said Beth Federici, president of the board for the Columbia Media Resource Alliance, a group that has been fighting for public-access for more than two years.
The resource alliance already has a stockpile of programs ready to go. Federici said alliance members have contacted the group’s board of directors about airing documentaries, music videos, short narrative pieces and other programs.
Mediacom’s plans, however, are still very preliminary, Baugh said.
In a letter to City Attorney Fred Boeckmann, Mediacom said it plans to adopt policies recommended by a city cable task force on how to handle pre-produced programming. While Mayor Darwin Hindman has yet to appoint members to the task force, “he does have some people in mind,” Boeckmann said.
Boeckmann said the effort from Mediacom is “better than nothing.”
The cable task force, once appointed, will be charged with reviewing that proposal for the council.