Cable One either can’t or won’t keep channels

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NATCHEZ — In just one day, Miss-Lou residents will have fewer stations to choose from when they flip on the television.

And those stations that will be lost fall into one of two categories.

The stations either won’t reach Natchez, or CableOne won’t pay to bring them here.

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January 1 marks the first day renegotiated contracts between cable companies, like CableOne, and television stations will go into effect.

CableOne General Manager Bobby McCool said the only stations that will be lost are stations that are currently received in duplicate.

McCool said the root of the issue is an upcoming Feb. 17 deadline. By that time, all television stations must be broadcast with a digital signal, not an analog signal.

And it’s that new digital signal that can’t travel as far as the analog signal can.

Once that transition takes place, some of the stations that will be lost will be lost because they just can’t make it all the way to Natchez.

“It all depends on the station,” McCool said. “There’s no equipment we could possibly purchase to get a stronger signal.”

Eric Thomas, Chief Systems Engineer at KALB, one of the stations that will no longer make it to Natchez, agrees with McCool.

“It won’t have as wide of a print,” Thomas said of his station’s broadcast radius.

Thomas’ station is broadcast from Forest Hill, La., approximately 60 miles north of Opelousas, and he said he was unaware of any equipment CableOne could use to retrieve the less powerful signal.

The only tool CableOne can use in an effort to get the soon to be lost stations is the checkbook.

But even that can only work in some instances.

The second category a station can fall into is one that has bolstered their signal enough to reach Natchez and now wants CableOne to pay to use their station, or pay more to use their station.

But if a station hasn’t made their signal strong enough to reach Natchez, no amount of money will get it here.

Bill Sagely, station engineer at KLAX, said the station has prepared for the switch to digital by getting a stronger transmitter — one that could reach Natchez.

“I don’t see why they wouldn’t get it,” Sagely said about the station.

McCool said KLAX wanted CableOne to either pay, or pay more, to carry their station.

And since that station is already a duplicate, CableOne won’t pay.

“If it’s a duplicate we’re not going to pay for it,” he said.

McCool said negotiations between CableOne and the stations are private and handled by corporate attorneys.

Of the seven stations to be dropped McCool was unaware of which would be dropped because of signal strength and which had to do with money.

But McCool said he has had customer complaints and has some concerns over losing business due to the loss of stations.

And customers like Jay Lehman say they are considering dropping their CableOne service.

“It’s a travesty,” Lehman said. “If we’re getting fewer channels, they should lower our rates.”

Lehman has contacted the Federal Communications Commission, the same group that mandated the switch from analog to digital, and was told they could offer not make CableOne carry any channels.

“It just seems wrong to me,” he said.

In Natchez,WBRZ, KLAX, KALB and KNOE will be lost.

In Vidalia, WBRZ, KARD and KALB will no longer be broadcast.