Cable deal a boost to GrassRoots |

Cable deal a boost to GrassRoots

Allyn Harvey

AT&T’s recent purchase of TCI Cable is shaping into a bonanza for one local nonprofit and a source of relief for the county.This Wednesday, the county and the cable company are expected to sign what has proven to be an especially difficult-to-reach agreement giving AT&T a five-year franchise to provide cable service in Pitkin County. In addition to securing cable access well into the next millennium, the deal also requires AT&T to write a $150,000 check to GrassRoots Television.And last Friday, representatives of AT&T Cable Services stopped by GrassRoots Television to donate 26 SVHS video decks, the high-grade video playback machines that are a critical link in television broadcasting.The donation marks the end of an era that had Channel 12 using equipment that was typically found in American homes during the late 1980s and early 1990s to broadcast its programming. The community station currently uses VHS decks to broadcast previously recorded programs by inserting the tape and setting a time for it to be played.”This is a step up from the equipment we’ve been using – SVHS is broadcast-quality equipment,” said GrassRoots manager Sean Sunkel.Sunkel said the station has long had SVHS video recording equipment, but until now all of its broadcast equipment was basic VHS. “SVHS” stands for Super VHS, and once installed, Sunkel promise the new decks will send a clearer picture to viewers’ homes.The SVHS decks, all of which are used, were gathered from AT&T facilities from around the state – Boulder, Greeley, Denver and Glenwood Springs – that are upgrading their equipment, said AT&T employee Jim Cominskey as he stacked them on the tailgate of his pickup truck outside the Red Brick Arts and Recreation Center on Friday morning. GrassRoots operates out of the Red Brick.”We’d heard that the station was in need of equipment, so our general manager, Jim Niswender, negotiated with AT&T Media Services to make this donation,” Cominskey said.Relief for the county may come Wednesday, when the county commissioners vote on the franchise agreement. The commissioners have had to extend the long-expired agreement with TCI several times this year to allow negotiations to continue.In addition to a $150,000 payment to Channel 12, the agreement calls for a five-year term, during which AT&T has agreed to make broadcast and cable system upgrades. The franchise fee is 5 percent of AT&T’s gross revenues.Sunkel said the money will be used to continue the station’s equipment upgrades.

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