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Charter cable channels 16 and 216 in Reno-Sparks-Washoe

Falling all over ourselves
Expanded from the 10-26-2008 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 11-10, 11-11, 11-12 and 11-14-2008

Ah, October, October. The fire ash trees scream their flaming yellow pain before their glorious cloaks crash to the ground in undignified demise. Kinda like a few political careers in about a week.

So let's try to expedite matters.

WHEN WILL SPARKS FINALLY GET MAD? The City of Reno's settlement offer in the Charter Communications debacle has morphed into a battle for control of local public cablewaves.

Save northwestern Nevada community television

Donate to the cable ratepayer legal defense fund at our PayPal-enabled ReSurge.TV Consumer War Room

The math behind the move
Updated 11-16-2008

Charter Communications plans to illegally move four channels of analog to the digital tier.

One channel of analog bandwidth accommodates two to 10 channels of digital programming, depending on the complexity of the streams. High-definition movies eat up a lot of bandwidth.

A Charter statement quoted on TV-4's Aug. 4, 2008, 11:00 p.m. newscast said that Charter is doing this to "free up more bandwidth for high definition channels."

Charter thus gains bandwidth for between 8 and 40 digital channels by banishing community TV to the digital tier, a net gain of 4 and as many as 36, depending on content.

Charter VP Marsha Berkbigler, in her first speech to the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee in Dec. 2002, said each additional channel is worth $1 million a year to Charter — and that's at 2002 prices.

So Charter stands to make between $4 million and $36 million by doing this, unadjusted for inflation.

Michigan Judge rules for cable ratepayers

Carson City gets the facts
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 10-19-2008

Talks with Charter fruitless
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 9-7-2008

Sparks, Washoe, Carson and Douglas consumers urged to contact their local governments to join the fight against Charter
Surge.TV 8-25-2008, Updated 8-28-2008

Evil empire eats its appetite
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 8-24-2008

Bandwidth bandidos admit their greed
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 8-17-2008

Sue the bastards
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 8-10-2008

Deregulation means never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune / 8-3-2008

Last year's columns about skulduggery at the Nevada Legislature which led to this mess

MORE: Smoking Guns

Government contact info

Barbwire.TV: 15-year overnight success
Daily Sparks Tribune 2-10-2008

The Barbwire's Greatest Hits
Highlights from radio days
mp3 file


In August, the Reno City Council ordered the city attorney to research going to court for a temporary restraining order similar to the case successfully thus far pursued in Michigan. (Read the federal judge's recent decision at ReSurge.TV.)

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told the Reno News & Review he would support the legal action.

My consumer organization, ReSurge.TV, is prepared to go to court if state and/or local governments do not act in the best interests of the ratepayers.

You may read the settlement proposal, crafted by Reno City Councilman Dave Aiazzi, at ReSurge.TV. Because it was so latecoming (I uploaded it in the wee hours of Wednesday morning), the council on Wednesday afternoon postponed any action until Nov. 10. Ironically, Charter raised its rates last Thursday.

Charter threatens to take community channels 13, 15, 16 and 17 dark on Thanksgiving Day, banishing them to cyber-Siberia.

Blatantly stating its goal as the enhancement of corporate profits, Charter wants to move public, educational and government (PEG) access TV stations to the digital tier (channels 200 and above).

When Charter relegated the Truckee Meadows Community College educational channel to the low-audience, high-cost, low-surfing digital tier, it killed the channel's usefulness and TMCC stopped using it.

Moving community TV to the digital tier would deprive as many as 35,000 basic and expanded basic ratepayers in Washoe, Carson and Douglas counties of services they have paid for and will continue to pay for.

The Reno proposal not only gives control of a single remaining analog (double digit) channel to Reno, but gives Reno a huge pot of new ratepayer money, including an additional five percent franchise fee plus $650,000 in payoffs…er, ah…make that "access capital grants."

The draft also says that a duck is not a duck: "The parties agree that the compensation and other payments to be made pursuant to this Section (the section is not specified) of this Settlement Agreement are not a tax and are not in the nature of a tax and are in addition to any and all taxes of general applicability which Charter shall be required to pay to the City."

It is illegal under federal law to charge a franchise fee of more than five percent, so they've labeled it as something else.

George Carlin, call your office.

The complications seem mind-boggling. Does the deal violate state or federal law? Would it require Charter to bail out of its 2007 decision to operate under state deregulation?

Would the state continue to collect the current five percent franchise fee, or would it go directly to Reno?

It has long been illegal to impose costs on a public utility which cannot be passed through to customers, so in the end, the ratepayers will get it in the end.

Will Sparks and Washoe County have the balls to object about Reno jacking up their ratepayers for a huge monetary windfall? (Rates are uniform throughout Washoe County.)

Charter spokesmen said they will apply any settlement with Reno to both Sparks and Washoe County. Actually, their system's technical requirements leave little choice.

Will Sparks and Washoe object to Reno taking effective control of the sole remaining channel on the popular analog tier?

Provision of the single channel is required under federal law. Reno is trying to seize control of it through this deal.

Charter has offered to do what they have to do anyway (the single channel) or produce a cockamamie coupon mailing to the affected customers offering some freebies.

Bottom line: We will give you a choice between what we are legally required to do (the single channel) and what we are illegally trying to do (move the community channels where few will see them.)

Reno's proposal is the same as asking tobacco companies to produce a campaign to fight teen smoking: They will do anything that they know will absolutely not work.

The public access system producers in particular and the ratepayers in general have been shut out of this process, as Reno and Charter have negotiated behind closed doors.

Feel free to call or webchat my daily TV show with your comments.

I told the Reno council on Wednesday that it's bad enough that I'm gearing up to sue a near-bankrupt billion-dollar outfit, I don't want to have to sue the city, too.

Stay tuned.

Mike makes a house call with Checkers, the corporate crime-fighting chicken.

BASIC CABLE FREEBIE ALERT. Michael Moore's 2008 feature film Slacker Uprising continues its first run on Sierra Nevada Community Access TV here in the Truckee Meadows.

Partially filmed at UNR's Lawlor Events Center, the movie will air on Charter channels 16 and 216 this Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. and Friday at 9:00 a.m.

BTW: My show will be in reruns Friday. We will rebroadcast the popular July 15 program with KRNV TV-4 anchor Tad Dunbar.

SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATER. Earl Ammerman IV and his dad Big Earl were talk radio fans of mine about 18 years ago. Little Earl is now an anthropology major at UNR and head of the Nader for President campaign in these parts.

"I have noticed one odd thing while campaigning. Many democrats are under the assumption that Ralph Nader chose (former U.S. Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales as his running mate. At first, I believed that this was just a coincidence. However, it has been happening too much, as of late, to be considered a coincidence. I don't know how one could actually believe that Nader would pick Alberto Gonzales as his running mate. I wonder if the Democratic party is doing this to smear Ralph's image."

Could some people actually believe that the distinguished Mr. Nader would put Tortureman on the ticket? Alas and alack, yes, given the level of attention devoted to follytix by the great unwashed.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

So sue us: Charter tells Sen. Reid and Reno
Ratepayers group may sue Reno as well as Charter
Daily Sparks Tribune online 11-11-2008
+ Barbwire Special Edition 11-12-2008
Updated 11-14-2008

The devil and the deep blue sea
Charter cable deal and Reno "settlement" offers are all death warrants for community television. Court battle looms closer.

Sparks Tribune / 11-11-2008 + Barbwire special web edition, 11-12-2008

FCC begins investigation of cable pricing and PEG channel switches
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 11-9-2008

Michigan Judge rules for cable ratepayers
Decision holds great importance for Nevada

Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 10-5-2008

Charter in serious financial trouble
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 10-12-2008

Charter offer deficient
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 9-28-2008

Reno-Sparks NAACP opposes Charter channel switch

Charter negotiates Russian-style: Will accept 100% of everything
Daily Sparks Tribune 9-5-2008

Donate to the cable ratepayer legal defense fund at our PayPal-enabled ReSurge.TV Consumer War Room

Reno city council votes unanimously to sue Charter to keep community TV accessible
Resurge.TV will also file

...and more ammo

The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

The campaign against forcibly-paid newspaper obituaries
And they wonder why the newspaper business is dying?

Phillips, Kevin; Numbers Racket: Why the economy is worse than we know
Harper's Magazine; May 2008; page 43
Phillips has authored numerous books on history and politics over the past 40 years. His most recent, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, was published by Viking on April 15, 2008.

NAOMI WOLF: Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps
There are some things common to every state that's made the transition to fascism. Author Naomi Wolf argues that all of them are present in America today.
Alternet 5-20-2007

Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007. I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune.

Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate. For additional comments on the work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning team, use the search engine and sweep for "Barlett."

Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below

ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

     SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.

     By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)

     Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.

Conservatives Help Wal-Mart, and Vice Versa
As Wal-Mart struggles to rebut growing criticism, it has discovered a reliable ally: conservative research groups.
New York Times 9-8-2006; Free registration may be required.

      BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey

      BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy

The sands of time do not cloud the long memories of the sheiks of Araby
Barbwire 9-10-2006

      Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966 | U-News | Bulletins + Almanac
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
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Copyright © 1982-2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 40-year Nevadan, editor of and, former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee and serves as political action chair and webmaster of the Reno-Sparks NAACP.

He hosts live news and talk (775-682-4144) Monday through Friday, 2-4:00 p.m., at Barbwire.TV and Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 (for at least the next 90 days) and 216. E-mail As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano premiered in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune on Aug. 12, 1988. Tempus fugit.


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