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

Stalking the perfect storm
Expanded from the 12-21-2008 Daily Sparks Tribune
Updated 1-17-2009

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

It's early March, 2009.

Snow is piling up outside and you feel both smug that you don't have to venture out and sorry for poor louts who must. You also worry about friends and relatives.

You plan a quiet evening watching TV and are shocked to find nothing on.

Absolutely nothing.

Your TV has more snowflakes on the screen than Old Man Winter is providing outside.

Charter cable service has been sporadic since the company's bankruptcy filing and is now totally out.

You lose Channel 4 news right in the middle of an emergency warning that this storm might be the Sierra equivalent of Hurricane Katrina.

Your old TV with the rabbit ears won't work because it can only receive the few remaining analog signals retained by low-power UHF Spanish-language and out-of-state religious stations.

The storm has taken down power lines. Spanish TV news and local radio go down with them.

You call your next-door neighbor who subscribes to satellite service. His dish is iced solid and he's got nothing.

You sit in the dark, a little scared. The house is getting colder. You wonder how long your cell phone will keep working. No point in putting it on the charger. You begin to second-guess your cost-saving decision to lose your landline.

You stumblingly search for a flashlight to look for fresh batteries for your one portable radio and hope that some stations have emergency generators. And you pray that the old radio still works.

You wish you had a fireplace and begin to wonder if this is what life was like in the Nevada of the wild, wild west.

TV is the glue that holds our representative democracy together. It is as much of a necessity as transportation.

The broadcast industry pushed the digital conversion through congress in hopes of keeping the valuable old analog spectrum for other uses. But the Baby Bells smoked them at their own game and that spectrum is now up for grabs.

Meanwhile, if the perfect storm comes, people will die because of corporate greed.

IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE? A Charter Communications meltdown is imminent, with Moody's Investors Service "stating that a default is imminent and bankruptcy is likely for Charter in 2009."

On Dec. 14, wrote "the cable company is often among the last carriers to implement substantive upgrades because of heavy debt load – though the CEO seems to do OK."

In my first month chairing the City of Reno Citizens Cable Compliance Committee in 2002, we obtained credible information of Charter's internal problems and feared serious service outages. Charter has never made a profit since going public in 1999, when Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen scored many more billions by cloaking his shaky cable Frankenstein in a tux and putting on the Ritz for Wall Street.

I described the situation to Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, who introduced 2003 legislation to allow franchising authorities such as Sparks and Reno to operate cable systems until a new provider could be found. Charter and their fellow pirates from Gomorrah South assassinated the pro-consumer bill.

Even without a perfect storm, over-the-air TV stands to lose about one in 10 viewers at the end of February because so many people either cannot afford to pay for digital converters or don't know how to hook them up. It takes a lot of knowhow according to a Ma Bell retiree from my union, Sparks-based Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 9413.

This good man has been helping people install over-the-air converters and did 20 minutes on my TV show last Friday describing the intricacies.

At a meeting of local TV executives last spring, I asked why commercial stations didn't just hire people to go out and hook up converters. TV stations make money by having maximum numbers of eyeballs watching their commercials, so I reasoned that they would want to keep their viewers.

Yes, but their lawyers told them there would be too many liability problems if they assisted their customers. Advocates for senior citizens and the disabled were especially brutal on the telecasters.

Major new telecommunications reform is necessary, but will be way down the priority list of the many fixes needed after the Bush-Cheney criminal enterprise leaves power.

CAN'T HAPPEN HERE, PART DEUX. This comes from an emergency activation system (EAS) expert: "I have not seen Charter in Carson City carry either a monthly test or an activation on any channel. When I asked several years ago why I didn’t see the evacuation order issued for the Moundhouse Fire on the cable channel I was watching, Charter responded that their equipment 'failed at the head end'.

"Remember that current federal regulations allow cable operators to bypass or ignore local EAS activations. They are only mandated to carry federal warnings unless their state or local government contracts require them to carry local alerts.

"When the (2007) legislature took away local authority over cable operators, our lawmakers apparently failed to add any mandates that cable operators carry local EAS messages.

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

FCC investigates cable TV pricing
Associated Press 11-4-2008

FCC investigates complaints about moving cable channels and pricing
Orlando Sentinel 11-7-2008


Charter misses $74 million payment
Reuters 1-15-2009

Website predicts 2009 Charter Communications bankruptcy
Moody's downgrades Charter on reorganization talk


"I’ve seen and heard more EAS activations on cable in Las Vegas than I have in Carson and Reno so I know cable operators who are committed to the community can carry EAS information.

"And I’ve been in 'Hurricane Alley' during storm season and not only have I seen the information cable operators there carry, I’ve also seen how their community access stations, or PEG channels, turn into full-time emergency warning and information centers.

"And I don’t know how a local government channel that provides this kind of emergency information can be moved out of a basic tier without a lot of fuss from the community." (Charter, in a dirty deal with the City of Reno, did just that on Dec. 16.)

The emergency expert added that "Some of these EAS practices, or lack of them, will change in the near future. Proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations will require that — broadcaster as well as cable operators— carry certain local EAS activations. This won’t have much of an impact on our broadcasters, who currently carry pretty much everything that comes down the pike, but it looks like this new mandate will have a big impact on Charter."

PIRATE SHIP PILLAGES LITTLE PEOPLE. About one in five Charter ratepayers have lost community TV service in Sparks, Reno, Carson, Washoe and Douglas. Public, educational and most governmental (PEG) TV have been moved to the lightly-surfed, lower-audience, higher-priced digital tier.

Please write or call U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to ask the FCC to issue an order reversing the damage.

His local staff recommends sending him letters and postcards via U.S. Mail. Ask Sen. Reid to fight for the consumer position.

Mail to
Sen. Harry Reid
400 S. Virginia St, Suite 902
Reno, NV 89501

Time is tight. I also recommend e-mailing his key staffers, Mary Conelly in Reno ( and Brittany Blanchard in DC ( Here is Reid's website e-mail portal: Sen. Harry Reid

Please act quickly and also consider joining our consumer organization, ReSurge.TV, as we gear up for the next round of this fight.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

Not even 30 pieces of silver
Reno City Council Signs Community TV Death Warrant

Contact Sen. Harry Reid for help
Sparks Tribune / 11-23-2008

Rise of the machines
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 11-16-2008

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

Wisconsin statewide franchise law has not dropped cable prices as promised
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel 11-8-2008

Falling all over ourselves
When will Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties get mad over Charter cable's ripoff?
Barbwire / Daily Sparks Tribune 10-5-2008

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 second vice-president, 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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