The Bermuda Broadcasting Company has demanded that CableVision pay to include local channels 7 and 9 on its cable system.
In response, and out of concern for its customers, CableVision has told the Bermuda Broadcasting Company that, if this is the case, CableVision no longer wants to include its channels.
It is now up to the Telecommunications Commission to decide when the two channels should be removed from CableVision’s cable system.
This is expected to take place on or around November 1, 2011. Local channels are all free-to-air, meaning that any member of the public can watch them for free by using an antenna.
Local broadcasters earn money from their channels by selling advertising. Local channels have historically been included in Cablevision’s cable system under “must carry” rules.
These rules meant that CableVision was obliged to carry all local channels but was not charged for doing so.
New legislation was, however, introduced three years ago to allow local broadcasters to choose between “must carry” and “retransmission consent.”
If a local broadcaster elected “must carry,” CableVision would continue carrying the channels at no charge. If, however, a local broadcaster elected “retransmission consent,” CableVision could only carry the channels if it paid license fees, a cost which CableVision would then pass on to customers.
Terry Roberson, general manager, explains: “Our primary concern is our customers. “Why should our customers pay for a service that is provided free to non-cable customers who use an antenna?
“We believe that this amounts to a ‘cable broadcast tax.’ We have found that the vast majority of our customers are not prepared to pay for a service which has been offered to them for free for so many years, and which would continue to be accessible for free by antenna.
“For this reason, we no longer wish to include local broadcast channels 7 (ZFB) and 9 (ZBM) on our system.
“It goes without saying that this is not a pleasant decision for us to have to make; however, after much consultation and review of events that transpired in the past, we believe this is the only logical solution.
“We will be advising customers of this decision via a personal mailing to each subscriber. The Telecommunications Commission will then need to decide when we can remove the channels.”
Mr. Roberson also points out that historically the “must carry” arrangements benefited everyone.
“CableVision has invested more than $19 million in its cable and fiber optic infrastructure,” says Mr. Roberson.
“We have always been happy for the Bermuda Broadcasting Company to use our infrastructure to reach a greater audience and earn greater advertising revenue.
“This was a ‘win win’ for everyone. The Bermuda Broadcasting Company however now wants our customers to pay for channels which are free for everyone else.
“We do not think this is right, especially in these economic times. We hope our customers will understand our decision not to carry channels 7 and 9 on this basis and we thank them for their understanding. Channel 11 (VSB) is unaffected.
Those who wish to watch channels 7 and 9 can continue to do so by using an antenna.”