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Bright House Settles Public-Channel Spat

1/11/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Opposition to Bright House Networks' decision to shift public, educational and governmental channels in Tampa, Fla., high up into the channel roster has ended.

The Tampa division of the Advance/Newhouse Communications-owned cable company and Hillsborough County have brokered a deal that would end local officials' opposition to putting the channels in the 600 range of numbers.

The telecommunications company has agreed to provide the county with $150,000 worth of advertising during the next two years. It will also provide free converter boxes to county offices, allowing government officials to view public-access programming.

Bright House changed its entire channel lineup in early December, in an effort to unify its roster among its 1 million Tampa-area customers. As part of that realignment, PEG channels were shifted from slots at channel 20 or lower in the old scheme to much higher channel positions.

About 60% of area viewers already subscribe to digital cable and can continue to view the PEG channels, according to Bright House senior director of corporate communications Joe Durkin.

Analog-only customers can request a digital converter box for $1 per month for the next year. That will allow them to access PEG channels, plus some other information services, such as the NASA channel, for a total of 16 channels in all, according to Durkin.

Hillsborough's chief concern about the channel switch was that viewers wouldn't find government programming in the new locations, Durkin said. The agreement provides the county with ad spots to promote the new channel locations.

Durkin added that PEG programming would also be archived for on-demand viewing.

September