TCI signs off on meeting coverage |

TCI signs off on meeting coverage

Rick Chandler

TCI Cablevision will pull the plug on a pair of local broadcasts by the end of the year, and some South Lake Tahoe city officials are not happy about it.

It was one month ago that the cable company informed the city of South Lake Tahoe by letter that it would discontinue its broadcasts of the twice-monthy City Council meetings, effective in December. Also said to be on the TCI chopping block is its broadcasts of the South Lake Tahoe Unified School District board meetings, which also occur twice monthly.

This does not sit well with city manager Kerry Miller, who said that TCI had given the city the impression that the local meetings would be part of its franchise contract package.

“I guess we’re kind of perplexed,” Miller said. “TCI has a history of broadcasting the meetings here, and now all of a sudden it’s discontinuing. They have represented to us on several occasions that the broadcasts would continue. This decision is not consistent with our prior understandings.”

South Lake Tahoe TCI officials were unavailable for comment. TCI’s general manager in South Lake Tahoe referred inquiries to a media spokesperson at the company’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, who said that the office was doing research on the situation and would call back with a response. That call was not forthcoming by press time.

TCI – a division of AT&T Cable Services – is under temporary contract with South Lake Tahoe while a permanent contract is under negotiation. “We still don’t have a contract with them to renew the franchise,” said South Lake Tahoe Mayor Judy Brown. “We’ve been going on a series of temporary contracts for some time now.”

The sticking point in the negotiations involves the length of the contract. TCI is requesting a 15-year pact, and South Lake Tahoe city officials are refusing such a long-term commitment.

“They want 15 years, but that’s too much,” Brown said. “Technology is changing all the time, and things could be completely different in 15 years. So we’re still in negotiations.”

There is nothing in the Cable Communications Act that requires cable companies to provide local programming, and TCI has already discontinued such programming in Washoe County.

But could the South Lake Tahoe contract impasse, coupled with the City Council broadcast cancellation, mean the end of TCI in South Lake Tahoe?

“If push came to shove, we would be forced to look at other alternatives,” Miller said. “The community pays a lot for cable service, both through billing and through the franchise fee. It’s a service TCI has provided in the past and should continue. They should do it for their customers.”

Said Brown: “Due to the harsh winters we have here, many people keep track of city government on television. It would be a shame to see that go.”

Brown said that TCI has indicated that it would provide equipment and training if some other party wanted to continue broadcasting the meetings.

“It might be a good opportunity for a high school audio-visual program to get involved,” she said.

TCI will also apparently discontinue its broadcasts of Lake Tahoe Unified School District board meetings, according to LTUSD Superintendent Rich Alexander.

“We haven’t received any official word at all, but the cameraman at the last meeting said that they wouldn’t be back,” Alexander said. “In the past they have been here for about every other meeting. I don’t know, I guess it’s good to have the meetings on TV. I guess the bottom line is we don’t know for sure.”

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