Next recent


Live Streaming Barbwire.TV

2:00-4:00 p.m. PDT, 21:00-23:00 GMT/CUT/SUT
Charter cable channels 16 and 216 in Reno-Sparks-Washoe

The people vs. Charter's pirate ship
Expanded from the 8-10-2008 Daily Sparks Tribune
UPDATES: 8-17-2008, 8-20-2008, 8-24-2008

In meetings last week, Charter cable told local governments and their ratepayers to shove it. On August 26, the Long Beach bandidos will abort local public, educational and governmental (PEG) access television.

Should you be angry? Well, if you're a Charter victim like me, you are being deprived of something you've already paid for.

The community television system has been built and operated by the franchise fee in your cable bills for almost 20 years. Now, Charter wants to charge you more money to see your own property.

Under federal law, community television stations are owned by the public, commercial-free and not subject to the whims of big advertisers or the politically powerful.

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

Updated 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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


If Charter's greed stands unchallenged, in nine days you will have to pay at least an extra five dollars a month forever to see stations you will continue to fund whether you can view them or not.

Charter is moving channels 13, 15, 16 and 17 to the premium digital tier. You will need to rent a digital converter box to get them and unless you are a very adventuresome do-it-yourselfer willing to pick it up, you will also get stuck with a $29.99 installation fee for the privilege of paying the pirates their monthly pound of flesh. (This has nothing to do with the converters necessary next February for conventional TV sets receiving signals through the air. If your set is cable-ready and you subscribe to only basic or expanded basic, you will not need a converter box no matter what happens with over-the-air digital TV.)

"Hold on to your remotes, Washoe County residents!" drips a Charter mailing to subscribers. "We're making changes to enhance your Charter experience."

George Carlin, America's puncturer of pompous-ass pronouncements, would utter all seven dirty words you can't say on television.

Charter's PR spin is that killing community TV won't matter to many of its 75,000 Washoe County subscribers.

I sent the following memo to KRNV TV-4's Joe Hart last week: "Apparently you got a dismissive statement from Charter that a mere 10 percent of its subscribers order only the basic tier. That's both sophistry and subterfuge. Many more ratepayers subscribe to expanded basic. A lot of them were blackmailed into doing so when the Telecommunications Act of 1996 allowed cable companies to redefine basic as they damn well pleased.

"Charter's predecessor immediately moved a lot of good stuff out of basic and into expanded to force customers to pay more for the same thing. That dynamic is at work here. After removing public, educational and governmental (PEG) access, basic will include only over-the-air English and Spanish stations plus the following: Commercial channel 3; QVC and Home Shopping (undoubtedly good for open government); C-SPAN1 (CSPAN2 was moved to digital over a year ago; CSPAN3 has never been provided, although like its predecessors, it was established as a cable industry sop to congress); TBS; The Weather Channel and TV Guide.

"All the more to drive viewers at least to the more expensive ($52.99 vs. $19.99 per month) expanded basic tier. Neither basic nor expanded basic can receive the buried PEG channels without paying extra for the digital converter box.

"Your use of Charter's 10 percent lowball figure reinforces their spin that nobody cares, where, as Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) Executive Director Les Smith points out, surveys by cities and counties show that half or more of their respondents say they have recently watched PEG stations.

"A survey done in another market shows PEG viewing was cut by 88 percent when moved to the digital tier. I am reliably informed that cable companies in three other states have lost in court over just this issue," I noted to Hart.

The motive is obvious: corporate greed by a now-financially floundering company which was taken public as a Wall Street stock hype-and-hustle by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.

Charter's local dragon lady Marsha Berkbigler told my cable consumer committee in 2002 that every community channel in this market was worth $1 million a year if shunted toward commercial purposes. Moving the community channels to the premium tier frees up bandwidth for a dozen new commercial stations. At 2002 prices, that means Charter can scam an extra $12 million a year at your expense. And the ripoff very probably violates a bushel of laws. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See updated figures, above right.]

"Looks like the only recourse is to file suit," I concluded in my memo to anchorman Hart.

Indeed, that seems to be the only chance we’ve got to stop this theft.

Even if Reno, Sparks, Carson City, Washoe and Douglas counties decide to go to court, we ratepayers cannot take the risk that they can or will act promptly. Legal action must be filed THIS WEEK.

And that means you and me. SNCAT has no legal standing. Only ratepayers and local governments do and it's too risky to wait for city hall.

I've launched a consumer organization to fund legal action. If you can afford it, go to to contribute via credit or debit card or send your check payable to U-News to P.O. Box 10034, Reno NV 89510.

An experienced attorney has expressed willingness to help and we can use any and all additional assistance. Even if we get all legal work donated, there are still substantial costs involved in fighting these horse thieves. Please help.

Almost 20 years ago, I served on SNCAT's founding board to save the people's TV stations from abortion at the hands of local government. Now, we have to save them all over again.

Calling or writing Charter won't do any good. Corporate HQ in Long Beach has issued orders to all pirate ships in its fleet.

Pushing local officials can't hurt.

I'll keep you posted Monday through Friday 2-4:00 p.m. at Barbwire.TV
. (Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 and 216) Call me on the show at (775) 682-4144.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns...

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


Sierra Nevada Community Access Television

Please send at least ten other people this notice and editorial.


Charter Communications is moving Reno – 13, Sparks – 15, public access – 16 and Washoe County – 17, will be moved to the digital tier and beyond the reach of most of their viewers.

Why should that be important to Charter’s subscribers or the rest of the people who don’t subscribe to Charter Cable?

The simple answer is that these are your channels, given to you by federal law. Cable operators are required to provide public, education and government (PEG) channels as a way of making public service programming available on the cable system without having to create public-service programming themselves. These channels are part of the public trust. They are your "property," just like the national forest or monuments in Washington D.C.

Most cable operators, like Charter, don’t share the sense of obligation to the community that their predecessors did. Cable operators have been railroading laws though state legislatures, relieving them of having to negotiate franchise agreements with the local communities. New statewide franchise laws still require cable operators to provide PEG channels. But, there is no guarantee of where on the cable spectrum the PEG channels will go.

The biggest downside to this move is for local government, community organizations and producers who count on easy and affordable access for their viewers. Federal law requires that these channels be easily accessible and available at the cheapest rate. Moving PEG channels up to the digital tier adds complexity and difficulty to watching these channels. And, the cost of the digital box is a huge jump in price over the basic cable rate.

There is a small, but important core of regular viewers who will be cut off from PEG channels, because they can’t afford a 25% increase in their cable fees. Moving PEG channels also effectively puts them out of reach of other PEG viewers, who cruise the basic cable tier.

Imagine a small, downtown park, surrounded by banks, boutiques, condos and shops. Parents bring their children to play here, church groups socialize, government officials meet, community organizations hold events, buskers perform and families from all over town come to enjoy the activities. The park has history, culture and tremendous community value.

Then, a developer convinces the legislature that it’s too much trouble dealing with the city on development. Now, the developer only deals with the state. The new law guarantees a park, but it doesn’t say where it has to be. So, the developer moves the park to an area five-miles out of town. And, to facilitate the move, an entrance fee will be charged. It isn’t hard to imagine what would happen to visitation at the park. And, where will the people who live in town to meet with government officials, participate in community events and activities?

The people of the Truckee Meadows wouldn’t stand for a developer perpetrating such a violation of the public trust. Why should they allow Charter to do the same thing with their PEG channels?


Contact: Les Smith
(775) 828-1211

RENO, NV - AUG 4, 2008 - In an apparent move to free-up analog channels for more lucrative clients, Charter Communications is moving the public channels up to the digital band, effectively putting them out of reach for the citizens of the Truckee Meadows.

"A huge number of people in Reno, Sparks and Washoe County will no longer have access to the information, programming and media that was provided for them by federal law," said Les Smith, executive director for Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT).

"Unless a wide majority of viewers go out of their way to buy the digital box and actively search out the public, education and government (PEG) channels, they will miss the opportunity to see what their local governments are doing," Smith continued.

"They won’t be able to get valuable information about what’s happening in their community or enjoy programming provided for them by program producers in the community."

"Those who will be most affected right away are the government channels, Reno channel 13, Sparks channel 15, public access channel 16 and Washoe County channel 17."

According to Smith, channel 16, the public access channel, provides media access for community organizations like the Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Humane Society and others, who will essentially be cut off by the move.

This move to put PEG channels onto the digital tier is not the first time that the cable provider has banished PEG channels to what Smith refers to as "Cable Siberia."

The educational channel was placed at channel 200. The channel was originally designated to be brokered by SNCAT and populated with programming from the UNR, TMCC and the Washoe County School District.

"TMCC produced programming and put classes on the channel to start with," said Smith,

"But, after Charter failed to follow-through with a promise to provide special digital boxes for students, the audience for channel 200 basically dropped to zero. So, TMCC gave up and they haven’t put any new programming on the channel for the last couple of years."

Smith predicts that the other PEG channels may share the same fate, if Charter is allowed to force this move.

According to Charter Communications, PEG programming currently reaches 75,000 households in the Truckee Meadows. These numbers will be drastically cut for the government and public channels if they move to the digital tier.

Currently, the vast majority of viewership on the analog PEG channels is incidental, but significant, usually the result of people surfing the basic cable tier. Both the cities and county indicate that a high percentage of the people polled in the Truckee Meadows indicated that they had viewed a public meeting or program on one of the PEG channels.


...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. | U-News | Bulletins + Almanac
Casinos Out of Politics (COP) | Sen. Joe Neal
Guinn Watch | Deciding Factors
| BallotBoxing.US | Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive
Barbwire Nevada Corporate Welfare Archive
Annual César Chávez Celebration
War Rooms:
Banks, Cabbies, Cabela's, Cable TV, Cancer Kids/Mining, Energy, Health Care, Resurge.TV/consumers, Starbucks, Wal-Mart
Search this site | In Search Of...


Copyright © 1982-2008 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of and; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, and the Reno-Sparks NAACP. He is the former chair of the City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee. He hosts live news and talk Monday through Friday, 2-4:00 p.m. at Barbwire.TV and Reno-Sparks-Washoe Charter cable channels 16 (at least until Aug. 26) and 216. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


Site composed and maintained by Deciding Factors, CWA 9413 signatory

Comments and suggestions appreciated. Sign up for news and bulletins