Following a hard-fought battle — that is still under appeal in the courts — Augusta’s local access television station has returned to its familiar spot on channel 7.

CTV-7 had forced to move way up to channel 1301 by Spectrum in 2017, when the cable company grouped all public access television stations together in its channel lineup during a technology upgrade.

But it’s now back where John Stanley and fellow viewers of local access programming, such as municipal meetings, can find it without too much searching.

Stanley, a retired state worker who lives in Augusta and self-described “local government junkie,” watches CTV-7 to view meetings of the Augusta City Council, Augusta Board of Education and sometimes Greater Augusta Utility District. He and others he knows were upset when the channel moved to 1301 where, he said, no one is likely to come across it while channel surfing.

The channel’s broadcast of meetings enables him to keep track of local government, which Stanley appreciates since he doesn’t physically go to such meetings anymore.

“A lot of people I talked to weren’t very happy about it,” he said of the move from channel 7 to 1301. “I didn’t watch it as often, it just didn’t cross my mind to go looking for it. The fact it’s now at channel 7, around the other channels, I know I’ll be watching it more often.”


Tony Vigue at Community Television Network in Portland on Feb. 25 2019. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Portland Press Herald file

Tony Vigue, a cable contract consultant who ran a South Portland local access channel for two decades before he retired, is part of the Community Television Association of Maine’s Legislative Policy Committee. The group successfully advocated for a law change made last year that required cable companies to allow local access channels to return to their longtime, sought-after lower channels.

Vigue said being stuck in the 1300s could have eventually resulted in the death of local access stations. He said people wouldn’t know they exist and wouldn’t “channel surf” by them and stop to watch. As viewership inevitably declined, Vigue said, it would be more likely that municipalities would no longer require them to be made available under local franchise agreements with cable companies that, he said, want to get rid of the channels.

“Charter (Communications) views these channels as a thorn in their side, so by moving them to the 1300s it removes them from the public eye,” said Vigue of Standish. “So when it comes time for franchise renewals, people don’t miss them because they haven’t been watching them.”

Charter Communications owns Spectrum, by far the largest cable company in Maine.

He said cable companies want to gain control of the lower channels, such as CTV-7’s, because lower channels located between major networks, are highly likely to attract channel surfers and bring high lease rates from commercial stations.

“It’s very valuable real estate,” Vigue said. “They can lease those single digit channels for big bucks.”


The law, sponsored by Sen. David Woodsome, R-York, passed and was signed by Gov. Janet Mills in 2019, but was then challenged in a lawsuit filed by the cable industry group, the Internet and Television Association.

The law was upheld by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Torresen in March, but has since been challenged with an appeal to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

In the meantime the stations have been allowed to return to their previous channels, where Vigue said some of them have been located for 35 years.

Heidi Vandenbrouck, New England senior communications manager for Charter Communications, confirmed the changes have taken place. CTV-7 has been on channel 7 since July 31. In addition, she said, in the Kennebec County channel lineup, education channel 1302 returned to channel 11, and government access channel 1303 is again channel 22.

Vandenbrouck did not respond to questions about why the company felt it was important to move and keep the stations at the higher, 1300s, channels or about the stations returning to their former channels.

Previously a former Charter spokesperson said the company sought to consolidate all local public access channels in the 1300s across the country so people would know where to find them no matter where they went.


And the Internet and Television Association argued, in its lawsuit, that Maine’s law conflicts with federal law and that the state’s requirements violate cable operators’ First Amendment rights.

Vigue said other states where cable companies have forced local stations to move to harder-to-find channels are watching to see if Maine’s law withstands the appeal. If it does, he said, they may also adopt similar laws.

Leif Dahlin, community services director for the city of Augusta, said it was “great news and a testimony to (Vigue) and his relentless effort” that local channels regained their familiar station numbers. Dahlin and City Manager William Bridgeo also said Andy Collar and other staff at Digital Spirit Media in Waterville, which operates CTV-7 programming for the city, worked hard to advocate for the return to channel 7.

In addition to local governmental meetings, the so-called PEG, or public, education and governmental channels broadcast local school and sporting events, educational programming, talk shows, musical performances, documentaries and other films, cooking shows, exercise programming, art lessons, animal adoptions, community event listings and, recently, public health information about the coronavirus, including updates and information on the coronavirus from administrators at Lincoln Health aired on Lincoln County Television.

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