Thursday afternoon at a regularly scheduled meeting of the Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC) executive board – I’m a member of the LTC board of directors – I learned that Comcast had unilaterally decreed that on March 20, 2012, it would move the content of Lowell Cable channel 10, our government access station, to channel 99. In its place Comcast is inserting WWPD, a station based in Norwell, Massachusetts, that airs home-shopping programs from ShopNBC.
The letter from Comcast contains this line: “As a result of WWDP electing must-carry status under FCC Rule 76.56, we will be making the following channel lineup changes on March 20, 2012 to accommodate their request: WWDP will move from Ch 72 to Ch 10; Government Access will move from Ch 10 to Ch 99.”
I’m not sure what FCC Rule 76.56 says, but I do know that Comcast owns NBC and that having the NBC shopping network lower on the channel spectrum (channel 10) will make it a much more likely destination for viewers, all to the financial benefit of Comcast, while the citizens of Lowell will have a little bit harder time finding the telecasts of local government meetings and events.
The city council will address this at its meeting this Tuesday night. Councilor Bill Martin, who is a member of the LTC Board of Directors and the chair of the council’s cable TV subcommittee, made a motion for a report on this change. I suspect that the contract between Comcast and the city of Lowell might give the cable company the power to make this change in such an abrupt manner, but just because they have the power to do it doesn’t mean they should, nor does in lessen the impact on the citizens of Lowell.