In response to recent pleas from a local public access television producer, the Woodstock Town Board has stated its formal opposition to a plan by Time Warner Cable (TWC) to change the town’s public access channel number as part of an upcoming switch from analog to digital transmission over a swath of the company’s system.
Woodstock supervisor Jeremy Wilber said in a July 17 interview that he had written to a Liberty-based TWC official urging the company not to proceed with what he referred to as a “scheme” to designate a new number for Channel 23, the local public access television outlet. His letter, said Wilber, informed TWC that the Town Board and Woodstock’s public access community “strongly protest” the proposed channel change, which the cable company described in a recent letter to its customers.
Randi Steele, who produces and hosts a weekly program on Channel 23, exhorted the board at its July 9 and July 16 meetings to protest TWC’s plan to change the channel’s numbers for local government and education programming, to 20.2 and 20.4 respectively. Steele maintained that the change would prove cumbersome for many viewers of the channel and might be costly for some. The switch would also undermine longstanding efforts by producers to build an audience for their programs, she said.
The local opposition may prove unavailing. In a July 17 phone interview, Joli Plucknett-Farmen, who is TWC’s public relations manager for the Northeast, based in Rochester, told Woodstock Times that the cable provider plans to proceed with the change on the announced date of July 23. Plucknett-Farmen, who was unaware of Wilber’s letter to her Liberty colleague, said that only public access government and education channels would switch to a digital format, while other channels would continue to be accessible in analog format.
According to Plucknett-Farmen, Channel 23’s location will be unchanged for digital cable customers, who account for about three-quarters of all TWC subscribers. The changeover will require no action by those customers, she maintained. For a second subset of customers, who have digital-ready TV sets, “the positioning of digital channels will be different,” said the TWC official — that is, as of July 23 such customers must rescan their sets in order to view local government and education programming at Channels 20.2 and 20.4.
The third segment of the customer base comprises subscribers with analog-only equipment. Those customers, said Plucknett-Farmen, may continue to view local public access programs in Channel 23 with the use of a digital adapter, which they can obtain from TWC in one of three ways: by visiting the website twc.com/digitaladapter; by calling, toll free, 855-286-1736; or by picking up an adapter at a TWC store. The company will provide adapters free of charge through the end of 2014 and for a fee of 99 cents per month thereafter. No shipping fee will be charged for adapters ordered online or by phone.
Steele told Town Board members that a decimal designation of .1 denotes preferred digital channels, while higher decimals, such as .2, .3, and .4, are assigned to “inferior” subchannels that are less appealing to advertisers and harder to access. Steele and Felicia Tkaczyk, her partner in a 501(c)(3) nonprofit production company, Birds of a Feather Media, urged residents to call the Public Service Commission (PSC) at 800-342-3377 to request that Channel 23 and its current decimal designation, 23.1, remain unchanged.
Birds of a Feather produces Steele This Channel, which airs on Channel 23 from 11 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, with a 9 p.m. starting time during the winter. The program’s contents include films and interviews on subjects including politics and culture. The company also provides engineering and technical assistance to four fellow producers of Channel 23 programming.