Policy

Comcast, Sacramento at the Wire

4/08/2004 4:59 PM Eastern

Comcast has one more week to negotiate a settlement with the city and county of Sacramento, Calif., over disputed license fees, or a third-party hearing officer will resolve the matter.

At issue: about $350,000 in fees identified by county auditors that regulators assert were underpaid by Comcast, based on its gross revenues dating back to 1999.
 
The auditors actually found the system owed $790,322 in back license fees and interest for the period.
However, Comcast agreed with some of the auditor’s assertions and has paid $412,000 according to regulators. (Sacramento does not have a traditional franchise scheme, but instead licenses operators and collects a license fee.)
Irregularities found included failure to pay revenues for several suburbs and subs at McClellan Air Force Base, failure to include national ad revenue in gross revenue computations, and the omission of home-shopping revenues.
Regulators and the company remain divided on the issue of the amount owed for national advertising. Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Commission executive director Richard Esposto said the total disparity represented about 4% of the revenues earned by the Sacramento system during the audit period.
That’s not much to the cable operator, but for a cash-strapped local government, the underpayment is huge, he said.
At the April 1 meeting, Esposto recommended the commission declare Comcast in breach of its contract. But the commission directed the sides back to the negotiating table.

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