Our Opinion: Comcast friend or foe?
While there would be few tears shed in Berkshire County if Time Warner were to be absorbed by Comcast, there is that old saw about "the devil you know" that comes into play. The union of the two largest cable companies, which is currently before the Federal Communications Commission, would, if approved, create a formidable media monolith, and there is no predicting at this point if that would impact the county for good or ill.
The Five-Town Cable Advisory committee representing Time Warner customers in five South Berkshire communities got to spend 30 minutes with Comcast officials on Tuesday. It was encouraging that Comcast would send representatives to Lenox, and their assertion that there would be no fee increases as a result of the merger (at least not right away) was welcome. But why come to Lenox without reviewing the recently signed 10-year agreement between the cable advisory committee and Time Warner, as officials acknowledged they had not done in response to a question from committeeman David Parker?
If the merger goes through, committee member Linda Miller would like Comcast to help switch Berkshire County from the Albany, N.Y., TV market, where it has been since the dawn of television, and the expanded Comcast should have considerable influence with the FCC. Pressure from the public and lawmakers persuaded Time Warner to abandon its decision to drop New England Cable News from its Berkshire lineup, but Boston’s highly regarded WCVB Channel 5 is still regularly blacked out in favor of Albany’s WTEN Channel 10, which like WCVB is an ABC affiliate. Viewers would surely rather watch a Massachusetts gubernatorial debate this fall than a mud-slinging contest in an obscure New York congressional district.
The FCC is still stuck in the 1950s, and as a result, Berkshire County is still stuck in an out-of-state TV market. If Comcast gets its merger, perhaps it can apply some muscle to get the county in the Massachusetts TV market where it belongs.
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