Pitkin County, Comcast have GrassRoots talk | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County, Comcast have GrassRoots talk

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Rinaldi

ASPEN – There’s apparently no guarantee that GrassRoots TV, Aspen’s community-access station, will remain forever on channel 12, though a recent dust-up over moving the station to channel 10 has been resolved.

Pitkin County commissioners and Comcast executives met amicably Tuesday to discuss the cable provider’s service and rates, and the events that led Comcast to announce in November that GrassRoots would be moved to channel 10. The switch was to make way for KBDI, also known as Colorado Public Television 12, on channel 12 locally. KBDI, expanding into the local market, began broadcasting Tuesday on channel 10 in Aspen and Basalt (Fox moved to channel 13); KBDI is on channel 12 in the lower valley.

Janet Rinaldi, director of government affairs for Comcast in northern Colorado, told commissioners that KBDI has the ability to request “must carry” status on channel 12. Comcast, however, misunderstood the station’s interest in channel 12 in Aspen as asserting its “must carry” rights, she said. 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.

KBDI, facing opposition to taking over channel 12 from the county and GrassRoots, did not push the issue. It accepted channel 10 locally.

Better communication could have prevented the channel-change flap, Commissioner Michael Owsley said.

“I wasn’t prepared for the emotion surrounding this situation and I take full responsibility for that,” Rinaldi said. “I have learned from that.”

The county, meanwhile, is seeking an outside legal opinion from an expert on whether one non-commercial, educational station can bump another one (GrassRoots) off a channel. Comcast has indicated the issue could re-arise if KBDI brings it up.

GrassRoots has been broadcasting on channel 12 for all 38 years of its existence. The KBDI issue aside, it could be bumped by a licensed commercial station that wants that spot, said Richie Cohen, a station board member.

“Is it possible for Comcast to take a position that they will defend our right to stay on Channel 12 and fight with us?” he asked.

“I can’t make that commitment. I’m sorry,” Rinaldi responded. “We can’t commit to providing a particular channel to any entity.”

Commissioners also quizzed Rinaldi on the perceived loss of channels from the basic tiers of cable service to more expensive packages; there weren’t any such moves in 2009 or 2010, she said.

They also voiced complaints about rate increases and spotty cable service.


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