Bright House Shifts PEG Nets

Come December, it will be goodbye analog, hello digital for public, educational and government programming in the seven counties served by the Bright House Networks Tampa, Fla., division.

The cable company has notified producers in the region that beginning Dec. 11, PEG programming will be moved up the dial. Kena Lewis, senior director of public affairs and communications for the division, said Bright House is unifying the channel lineup throughout its service area.

The region's highly mobile residents find the channel lineups at home confusingly different from those found at their childrens' school or in a relative's home. Lewis said there has not been a huge outcry for a single lineup, but its creation will make viewing easier wherever a resident may go.

As part of the shifts, PEG channels will be moved to a digital tier, meaning current basic-cable viewers will have to get a digital box to continue watching PEG programming. Digital boxes rent for $6.95, but Bright House will make boxes available to basic-cable viewers for $1. Those viewers may still take basic cable and pay for that level of service.

While local content providers stress that they think Bright House is and will continue to be a great community partner, they are discouraged by the change.

“Our objective is to get the most [viewers] at the lowest cost,” said Charles Clapsaddle, station manager of Manatee (County) Educational TV (METV).

The educational channel creates 25 original programs a month and transmits telecourses for local students.

He said that METV is carried by two other local providers, Comcast and Verizon Communications, and they aren't moving PEG-channel placements.

Clapsaddle said he's excited about the clarity of signal that will be afforded by a move to digital, but added, “We've worked hard to develop local, niche programming. I hate to think the move will cause fallout of audience share, but that's inevitable.”

Florida operators are now regulated by a state agency, rather than localities, under terms of a bill passed last spring. State regulation does not dictate where PEG channels should be located.