News

Minority Programmers Push for Carriage

2/02/2001 7:57 AM Eastern

Minority and religious groups are asking cable and direct-broadcast satellite
operators to make sure their interests are represented when video providers
decide which public-interest channels they carry.

National Action Network CEO the Rev. Al Sharpton sent a letter to EchoStar
Communications Corp. chairman Charlie Ergen to request a meeting to discuss
African-American public-interest channels, as well as diversity-in-the-workplace
issues.

Through a spokesman, EchoStar declined to comment on the matter, and it would
not say whether Ergen was considering such a meeting. Sharpton wrote that since
February is Black History Month, he was challenging Ergen to meet with him
before the end of this month.

In Michigan, Comcast Corp.'s Detroit system has come under fire in recent
months over its decision to remove two well-received, African-American-owned,
low-power television stations.

Last fall, the system stopped carrying WLPC (channel 26) and WHPR (channel
68) after the stations defaulted on their obligations to pay carriage fees that
had been negotiated the year before, Comcast division vice president of
regulatory affairs Jon Kreucher confirmed.

Because the two broadcasters were not full-power stations, they were not
granted carriage under federal must-carry rules. However, because both are
minority-owned, Kreucher noted, the perception among viewers might be that it's
something other than a power issue.

'Their programming offers some value to our viewership,' Kreucher said.
'We've made some concessions in order to maintain our relationships with both
stations.'

Although a new contract has not yet been signed, Comcast has reinstated WLPC
on its Detroit system. Talks are proceeding with WHPR, as well, Kreucher added,
but the operator does not want to be in the position of having to take the
channel away from viewers again if the broadcaster is not able to meet its
financial obligations.

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