Aspen’s GrassRoots TV remains on Channel 12
November 30, 2010
ASPEN – GrassRoots TV, Aspen’s community-access station, will remain on Channel 12, where it has always been.
KBDI, the Denver station that had its eye on Channel 12, will take Channel 10 in the Aspen area instead, ending what appeared to be a brewing battle over the coveted Channel 12 spot.
Comcast announced in a Nov. 3 letter to Pitkin County that GrassRoots would be switched to Channel 10 in order to free up Channel 12 for KBDI, also known as Colorado Public Television 12. GrassRoots opposed the move, and some county commissioners were incensed.
However, Comcast subsequently notified KBDI that it intends to put that station on Channel 10 in Aspen because GrassRoots TV occupies Channel 12. The county last week received a copy of a Nov. 19 letter from Janet Rinaldi, director of government and regulatory affairs for Comcast, to KBDI President and CEO Willard Rowland Jr., informing him of the decision.
In the letter, Rinaldi acknowledged local opposition to the GrassRoots channel change. The letter to Rowland also says: “If you believe that you have a legal right to be placed on Channel 12 on that system, please respond in writing to all parties to this letter with your explanation. Alternatively, if you reach an agreement with the county as to Channel 12, please provide us with written confirmation of the same.”
KBDI executives decided Monday not to pursue Channel 12 in Aspen, according to Pam Osborne, the station’s director of marketing.
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The station was willing to assist GrassRoots in making a move to Channel 10, but understands the Aspen station’s reluctance to lose its long-held spot on the TV dial, she said.
“We’re not interested in picking a fight or displacing anyone,” Osborne said.
When Colorado Public Television 12 becomes available via Comcast in the Roaring Fork Valley on Jan. 4, it will be seen on Channel 10 in Aspen and Basalt, and on Channel 12 in Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, according to Osborne.
Aspen and Basalt won’t be the only exception to KBDI’s presence on Channel 12 across much of Colorado. It’s on Channel 23 in the Pueblo area, she said.
“It’s good to see Comcast altering their position,” said John Masters, executive director at GrassRoots TV, after receiving a copy of Rinaldi’s letter.
“We never had any intention of changing channels,” he added, though he also acknowledged the local station has little say in the matter. Elected officials oversee local cable franchises in their jurisdiction.
“The commissioners have been really supportive of what the community wanted and what GrassRoots wanted,” Masters said.
GrassRoots, the oldest community-access station in the nation, has been on Channel 12 for all 38 years of its existence.
Asked how significant a forced move to another channel would be for the station, Masters said: “How big a deal would it be if you moved the Wheeler Opera House a couple of blocks? It is a big deal. It’s been our identity for 38 years.”
How the proposed channel change came about is a bit murky.
KBDI is looking to expand its programming beyond the markets in the state where it already broadcasts – primarily on Channel 12. KBDI undoubtedly requested Channel 12 in Aspen to remain consistent with its brand, Masters reasoned, but Comcast’s initial letter to the county explaining the channel change indicated the cable provider was obligated to comply with an order from the Federal Communications Commission. Comcast said KBDI had filed for and received a “must carry” status from the FCC for the Aspen area, and that KBDI asked for Channel 12.
But, contended Masters, KBDI doesn’t have a local broadcast license – and couldn’t file for a “must carry” status without one. In addition, he said, non-commercial, educational stations such as both GrassRoots and KBDI don’t have the ability to demand a particular channel.
“They [KBDI] were the first to tell me they did not request must-carry,” Masters said. “That doesn’t mean KBDI would not like to have Channel 12 … That’s too bad. We were here first.”
Masters, however, expressed interest in having KBDI available locally – on a channel other than Channel 12.
“KBDI is a really great PBS station. I really like what they do,” he said. “They go out and find alternative programming. I think it would be a good addition to the channel lineup here.”