Skip to content

Tanner seeking answers on channel lineup changes

Tanner seeking answers on channel lineup changes

Posted: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 8:55 pm
By: John Brannon Messenger Staff Reporter

By JOHN BRANNON Messenger Staff Reporter Charter Communications pulled the plug Friday on several popular broadcast TV stations. Hard hit were viewers in Obion, Lake and Weakley counties whose TV screens went blank — without any apparent warning. But in nearby Henry County, it’s a different story. Charter didn’t terminate any channels there. Congressman John Tanner wants to know why. Tuesday, expressing “serious concern,” he wrote letters to officials of the Federal Communications Commission in Washington and Charter Communications Inc. in St. Louis. Charter Inc. In a letter to Joshua Jamison, Charter’s divisional president, he questioned Charter’s decision to stop retransmitting network affiliates from Nashville and Memphis to subscribers in the three counties. “Charter subscribers in these affected areas are being deprived of news from all but one Tennessee broadcaster, important weather and safety information, and some Tennessee-specific sports programming,” he wrote. The reference to “sports programming” means viewers in Obion and Weakley counties will no longer be able to receive TV coverage of the Tennessee Titans. However, they can watch coverage of St. Louis Rams. But how many Rams fans are there in northwest Tennessee? This area is Titans’ territory. “I would appreciate a written response as to why Memphis and Nashville programming was dropped from your lineup in (Obion and Weakley) and what efforts you have made or will make to put those stations back on your cable lineup. I understand there are avenues available to keep retransmitting these stations,” Tanner continued in the letter. “… I believe all efforts must be exhausted to get these stations back on the air. Without these stations, the 7,000 students at the University of Tennessee at Martin are adversely affected, and your customers lack full exposure to programming that represents their regional and cultural interests. It is also difficult to explain to Obion and Weakley residents why they are denied access to the programming they want while viewers in neighboring Henry County have ample viewing options. “I would also like to know what steps you took to prepare your customers for this very significant change in service. Many Charter subscribers were taken by complete surprise when these affiliates were taken off their cable lineup on Dec. 12. Furthermore, it is my understanding that a letter to your customers dated Dec. 1, 2008, contained a channel lineup that reflected that the Memphis stations had been dropped but that the Nashville CBS affiliate would remain. … “I will gladly work with Charter, the Federal Communications Commission and any other entity to see this issue resolved quickly.” FCC In a letter to FCC chairman Kevin Martin, Tanner said he is concerned about Lake, Obion and Weakley counties being assigned to the designated market area made up of Paducah, Cape Girardeau and southern Illinois. “… (h)istorically, the cable operators and satellite operators serving those counties have been able to retransmit the programming of Tennessee broadcast stations. But now, some cable and satellite customers in this area are being prevented from gaining access to programming from Nashville or Memphis. … “This action means that many of my constituents are being deprived of access to a diversity of state news, important safety and weather information and some Tennessee sporting events. Further, advertisers from Nashville have no incentive to reach out to these Tennesee communities. While I understand the need to protect localism in broadcasting, viewers in northwest Tennessee are effectively being denied a significant amount of programming about their state and the government they pay taxes to fund.” Tanner also told the FCC that cable and satellite viewers in the affected counties would be better served by assigning those counties to a Tennessee designated market area. “I look forward to hearing from you on this critical issue. Together, I hope that we can ensure the residents of Lake, Obion and Weakley counties have access to programming specific to their state and local interests,” he wrote. Published in The Messenger 12.17.08

Leave a Comment