City Should Seek Better Terms in Comcast Agreement

TO: The Editor, Baltimore Chronicle
FROM: Mike Shea
RE: Story on Baltimore City's Cable Contract with Comcast

Great article!

Correction on the "Note" section at end of article: The education channel is 7, not 6. Channel 6 is another channel overseen by the Mayor's Office of Cable and Communications (MOCC), bringing the total of Public Access channels to four. Channel 6 is leased to Major Broadcasting Corporation Network (MBC), a commercial corporation located in Atlanta, for about $25,000 per year, all of which goes to the MOCC.

This brings up a very important point. Perhaps the biggest fault in the proposed contract is that it turns over four of the 12 cable access channels to Comcast. Comcast's own estimates would put the value of these four channels over the 12 years of the contract at $77 million! This figure is extrapolated from Comcast's assessment of the value of cable channels in another jurisdiction where that jurisdiction was trying to get Comcast to give another channel for cable access (Comcast of California II, L.L.C.'s Initial Brief in Support of Renewal of Its Franchise Agreement with the City of San José, California, 10/30/03. Quote: "Comcast estimates that each channel is worth approximately $21.6 million over a ten-year franchise term." --That is $2.16 million per channel per year. Adjusted for the different subscriber bases -- San José has 159,000 vs. Baltimore City has 118,000--gives $1.6 million per channel per year X 12 years X 4 channels = $76.8 million for Baltimore City).

Why is Baltimore City giving up these channels for nothing comparable in return, and why can't some of the unused cable access channels be leased to generate revenue for public access, as the MOCC does for the government access channel 21

It would also be good for Baltimore City to look at what is happening in San José where they are challenging Comcast for a better deal ("San Jose wins round in legal battle with Comcast") instead of simply accepting the scare tactic that if Comcast doesn't get its way the deal will be worse for the city.

See also: "Comcast Claims its Corporate Interests are More Important than those of Citizens and Communities"

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This story was published on December 3, 2004.