City Complaints Prompt Cablevision To Offer Local Producers Expanded Hour At Broadcast Studio
Friday, March 8, 2013 • 10:22am
PATERSON, NJ – Under fire from city officials and community members who produce Paterson programs, Cablevision announced Thursday it would restore the operating hours of its broadcast studio on Ellison Street.
The announced plan pretty much would return the studio to the same operating hours that had been used before last month’s statewide Cablevision layoffs resulted in what Patersonians called a significant reduction in access to the broadcast equipment.
Starting next week, the studio will be open and available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis from 2-7 pm on Wednesdays through Fridays, according to Cablevision spokeswoman Kelly McAndrew. She said Cablevision also would schedule appointments on other days at local programmers’ requests.
“This is a good first step,’’ said Councilman William McKoy. “They’ve lost four weeks,’’ he added, referring to the local producers, “so clearly they’re going to need additional time to catch up.’’
“I’m happy,’’ said Council President Anthony Davis. “At least there’s more opportunity for the access channel to be utilized and open.’’
But some of the folks who produce local programs at the studio remain skeptical, saying they believed Cablevision was making assurances it would not fulfill.
“It sounds good, but it’s BS,’’ said Quydaar Lewis, one of the programmers. On Thursday, he said Cablevision staff had told him the next time he would be able to get access to the studio would be March 20. “We have time-sensitive shows,’’ Lewis added. “It’s important for us to be in the studio every week.’’
“This is my life,’’ Lewis added. “I don’t have a second job. I need access for real.’’
Lewis also was upset because he said he was told by Cablevision staff that he could not bring food for himself and his production crew to the studio. He pointed out that the studio was equipped with a kitchen. Moreoever, he said, they spent more than four hours at a time working in the studio and get hungry.
Michael Taylor, a Paterson resident who has been involved in the city’s cable studio for more than two decades, said he doubted Cablevision would be able to assign anyone to the Ellison Street facility to cover the announced hours because he said the company had terminated off all but three of its local access staff members in the states. Taylor was among the people who lost their jobs in the downsizing.
After the layoffs, Cablevision restricted access to the Paterson studio to appointments only, a change that created an uproar among local program producers. City lawyers are researching whether the change violated Cablevision’s franchise agreement with Paterson.
McKoy said the city would continue to work on an arrangement that would allow Taylor to staff the studio on a volunteer basis as a way to make the facility available to the programmers even more often than the hours being offered by Cablevision.
On Tuesday night, two Cablevision representatives attended the City Council workshop meeting. “We certainly don’t want to limit anyone access to the studio,’’ said the company’s government relations representative, Gary Shaw. “It defeats the purpose of having it.’’
But in a rare show of unanimity, the council members criticized Cablevision and its handling of the situation.
“It’s been too long and we’re unsatisfied,’’ said Councilman Kenneth McDaniel.
“We’re tired of being beat down,’’ said Councilwoman Ruby Cotton.
Some council members said the issue over the studio reflected Cablevision’s broader mistreatment of Paterson. They said the company takes advantage of Patersonians because of the lack of competing cable service in the city.
“We in the City of Paterson deserve better from your company,’’ said Councilman Rigo Rodriguez. “You know what this is? A monopoly.’’
Councilman Julio Tavarez said Cablevision offers folks in neighboring towns discounts in an attempt to get their business, but that the same deals are not available to Paterson customers. “If I had a choice, I would switch to FIOS, but I can’t,’’ Tavarez said, lamenting the limited availability of Verizon service in Paterson.
Tavarez said a friend of his who lives in Clifton pays just $100 for a multi-service that includes several extras. That startled McKoy, who said his cable bill was more than $200. McKoy urged the Cablevision representatives to offer similar deals to Paterson customers.
“Just name Paterson Clifton and give us $100 less and we can roll,’’ said McKoy.