|WCVB Pulled From Berkshire TV Lineups; Lawmakers Petition For It Back|
|Staff Reports, |
10:43AM / Wednesday, June 06, 2018
|The station was pulled from lineups Wednesday morning.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Spectrum is pulling WCVB Boston, Channel 5, from its lineup and Berkshire lawmakers are petitioning to get the station back.
Wednesday morning the station went dark on many televisions across the county. The change follows the removal of WWLP Channel 22 from the lineup last year. Now, state Rep. John Barrett and state Sen. Adam Hinds are calling on the company to bring the stations back.
"I was most disappointed this morning to see that our friends at Spectrum removed WCVB Channel 5 from its Berkshire County lineup. I was still holding out hope that North Adams would determine that Spectrum had breached its contract and would be referring the matter to the Department of Telecommunications and Cable. If this had happened, it would have gotten Charter's attention and possibly held up the removal of WCVB and forced them to the bargaining table," Barrett wrote on Facebook on Wednesday morning.
"The goal is 1,000 signatures, which I believe should be more like 7,500. Share this post and let's see if we can get a lot of signatures, and maybe those in a position to help will do something. Nothing to lose but everything to gain, and we're running out of options! I'm disappointed but not ready to give up just yet. I thank everyone who has commented and shared their stories as it has been most helpful. The arrogance shown by Spectrum towards its customers clearly shows what a monopoly they are-yet the FCC has ruled they are not," Barrett wrote.
Hinds' office also sent out an email to the petition, asking residents to support it. Hinds' office wrote the Berkshires is an "orphan county" in the Federal Communications Commission map, which links it to the Albany, N.Y., market. That means the county's customers are now only to see ABC and NBC stations out of New York. But, Hinds office says that while the FCC only requires one affiliate of each of the broadcast networks to be on the air, the company has the ability to carry more.
"The legislators encourage anyone with an interest in viewing Massachusetts-based TV content to sign the petition and share it on their personal social media platforms. Noting that there are currently more than 50,000 Charter customers in the Berkshires, they plan to use the petition to illustrate the local mindset in ongoing conversations with Charter Spectrum on this matter," Hinds' office wrote.
"The delegation believes basic tenants of good customer service suggest that if Berkshire cable consumers want to watch WCVB or WWLP then Charter should not actively take steps to prevent them from accessing such content. Further, the Berkshire state legislative delegation is collectively working with their federal counterparts to address this issue in multiple ways. In May U. S. Sen. Edward Markey, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and [U.S. Rep.] Richard E. Neal wrote to the leaders of Charter Communications and Hearst Television, the parent company of WCVB, urging them to find a way to keep the channel on in the Berkshires. Together, the state and federal legislators are exploring available policy avenues to address this decision and are working with the Massachusetts attorney general and local officials to determine whether the cable company has breached contractual licensing agreements or engaged in deceptive business practices."
Barrett is asking residents to check the speed of their internet connection to make sure it is what the cable company promised. He suggests residents were led into switching to packages said to be more inexpensive but turns out to cost more and have fewer channels. He said residents were charged and "outlandish price" for installation of digital boxes. He believes those are deceptive business practices and he's looking for resident so to share their stories with the attorney general.
"On Monday I will post the locations where the assistant AG will be meeting with aggrieved customers. I will also post phone numbers for those who want to file a complaint with the attorney general's office over the phone. This process is important, and if people don't tell their stories to the Atty. General then Spectrum will continue to do as they please," Barrett wrote.
The cable lineup has been an ongoing battle in Berkshire County. On multiple occasions, Spectrum's predecessor Time Warner Cable sought to pull NECN from the lineup and each time residents and politicians fought to keep it on.
The move also follows a switch to encrypted digital signals, which triggered outrage from community television organizations who saw channels moved and from residents who had to switch to digital boxes that also cost more. In both Pittsfield and North Adams local leaders called Spectrum to public meetings to answer to the changes. However, despite numerous residents voicing frustration with the company's recent changes, Spectrum has continued on with its plan for both encryption and the pulling of the Massachusetts stations.