“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939) and “Born Yesterday” (1950) portray the deleterious effect of corporate lobbying and should be required viewing for those in power, especially now.

Charter Communications, new to Maine in 2016, has been the subject of complaints received by the attorney general’s office for non-compliance with state cable franchising laws and would benefit from the lessons learned in those two films.

Charter/Spectrum flexed their corporate muscles recently and joined with Comcast lobbyists to squash (along strict party lines) emergency legislation that would have benefited 300,000 cable viewers in Maine. The one-page bill, created by town managers, select boards and community television volunteers, was sponsored by Sen. David Miramant. It would have prevented cable operators in Maine from moving the local public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels up into the 1300 channel locations.

Charter fails to mention why the local commercial broadcast channels are not being moved. Ironically, Charter has taken this step so the PEG channel locations can be leased to shopping networks. By making the PEG channels less conspicuous and less viewed, towns will be less likely to require them at franchise renewal times, a double win for the cable industry.

In addition, Charter refuses to carry local PEG channels in HD and will down convert the HD signals to near VHS quality even if HD signals are provided to them.

Both issues and other enhanced consumer protections will be addressed in a new version of the bill, which will be re-introduced in the next session of the Legislature. Until then, our group stands ready to debate these issues with cable industry representatives in a televised open forum as opposed to behind closed doors at the State House. Stay tuned.

Tony Vigue


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