Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

One Last Post About Cable Channel Changes

For those of you who read this blog regularly this is going to sound very familiar. We have discussed it already quite a lot, but confusing crawls across the bottom of many of our cable channels are resulting in phone calls to our switchboard, so this is one more attempt to explain what is happening.

First thing first. The big news all over many cable news shows today is about a battle between Viacom (owners of several cable channels like: Comedy Central, CMT: Pure Country, MTV, MTV 2, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, MTV Tr3s, Nickelodeon, Noggin, Nicktoons, Spike, The N, TV Land, VH1, VH1 Classic, and VH1 Soul) are in a bitter cost dispute with cable systems owned by Time Warner. Apparently Time Warner is refusing to pay what Viacom is asking beginning on January 1 and they are willing to express that displeasure by turning all those channels off as the ball drops tonight on Time Square. While this is exciting, it has nothing to do with us here in Glasgow. No matter what happens in this dispute, it will not impact your programming from Glasgow EPB.

It would be wonderful if that were the end of the story, but, it isn't. Hundreds of small independent cable operators like us are also in a dispute with NBCU (owners of cable channels on our system like: MSNBC, CNBC, USA, BRAVO, SCI-FI and NBCU-HD).
While we are fairly confident that we will reach an agreement with them on price, there continues to be the chance that NBCU will turn these channels off until we reach an agreement. If you wake up to nothing on these channel positions on New Year's Day, this would be the reason.

Other changes are the ones we have talked about many times over the last month. The latest information on these changes can be seen by watching EPB Cable6.

Oh, and Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What Does Electricity Really Cost?

The cost of electricity in Glasgow is going down some on January 1. This comes as a result of a reduction in the FCA (Fuel Cost Adjustment) which TVA recalculates four times per year. The electricity which powers your home will cost you about 6% less on January 1, to about nine cents per kWH, but let’s talk for just a bit about the real costs associated with the electric power we use in Glasgow. It really costs a lot more than the nine cents per kWH you pay will us for it. Here is what I mean.

We have talked before about the fact that the power we use in Glasgow is mainly generated by the burning of coal at the many coal-fired generation plants operated by Tennessee Valley Authority. In fact, TVA burns over 400 tons of coal per day just to keep our lights on here in Glasgow, and the burning of that coal has costs that are not recognized in that nine cent cost. For one thing, the burning of that coal dumps unbelievable volumes of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere from the smokestacks at the coal plants. For example, one of the measurements we are making available to our customers who have one of our new internet-based electric meters is the amount of CO2 that is dumped into the atmosphere each month just to power their home. This month my home’s electric power consumption caused 4,500 pounds of CO2 to be dumped into our atmosphere. There are about 5,500 similar homes in Glasgow alone, and the CO2 going into the atmosphere is only one of the added costs of the power we use. Our waterways suffer as well.

You have likely heard about the massive spill of coal ash slurry from the TVA Kingston Fossil Plant near Knoxville, Tennessee. This link takes you to one of the many newspaper accounts of this event. This link takes you to a first hand account of the disaster from someone who went there. The facts are that on December 22 a dike holding in an impoundment of over one billion gallons of coal ash slurry gave away and emptied its contents into neighborhoods surrounding the Kingston Fossil Plant and, in turn, into the rivers which feed into the Tennessee River. No one yet knows what the long term impacts of this spill might be. We do know that the ash is what is left over after the pulverized coal is burned to make steam to turn the generators that keep our lights on. It is also made up of the objectionable particulate matter that is scrubbed from the smoke which results from this combustion before it exits the smokestack. It is laden with heavy metals like mercury, lead and arsenic. Here you can read an inventory of just what horrible substances are in that ash. That is why we are scrubbing it from the smoke. So, it only follows that if we do not want it in our air, we also do not want it in our water. Yet, there is where it is headed, one billion gallons of it. This cost is not a part of the nine cents you pay for a kWH, but it is still a massive expense, don’t you think? You can bet that the cost of the cleanup will be added to our power bills very soon.

The story of this coal ash spill is far from over, but one thing is certain, the environmental cost of our energy consumption dwarfs the monetary cost. Every single element of the mining, transportation and burning of coal damages the water and air so essential to human life on our planet. There is no such thing as clean coal! We all need to ponder this at every revolution of the electric meter on the side of our house. We all use too much electric power. We use it at the wrong times of the day, and all of the power we use results in long term damage to spaceship earth.

Suddenly nine cents per kWH seems way too cheap. My guess is that, by the time all of the results of this massive spill are known and tallied, coal will no longer be the cheapest way to produce electricity. The folks downstream of Kingston Fossil Plant will be the first to vote for that.
Sunday, December 21, 2008

Mother Nature Rearranges Some Channels




Even though we have been talking about the big television channel revisions for some time now, you may be surprised when you turn on your television this morning. The storm which blew through Glasgow on Saturday night included a rogue lightning bolt that struck our antenna tower and damaged a lot of equipment -- mostly equipment associated with Nashville based television stations. The damage is causing us to scramble and cobble together repair solutions. One of those solutions will be to go ahead and implement some of the channel additions/deletions that were scheduled for January 1. Since a few Nashville broadcast stations were already going to be dropped due to their overly aggressive demands for payment, it seems silly to repair that equipment for just a few more days of use. So, let me tell you about the changes we are planning to implement immediately.

We hope to have WTVF (our channel 10) and WKRN (our channel 25) back up using alternate antennae sometime on Sunday. The HD CBS feed from WTVF will be a much bigger problem but we are going to attempt to salvage our CBS HD feed from WLKY to replace it temporarily. We are not sure if this will work nor are we sure how long this will take.

The feeds for WNPX (our channels 175-178) are just going to be down for a while. Ditto for our Nashville public broadcasting channels -- WNPT (our channels 198, 199, and 510). These will be down until the weather moderates enough for someone to climb our 450 foot tower and do the work at the top.

WUXP (our channel 15) and WZTV (our channel 17) were already slated to leave our system on January 1. Since Mother Nature has dealt us this blow, we are going to take her suggestion and leave them off and start making the connections to debut their replacements as soon as possible. WMYO will appear on channel 15 as soon as possible. WBKI will take the vacant spot on channel 17 as previously explained in posts on this blog.

We are sorry that this damage and these early changes might cause some viewing interruptions during this time of year when the weather and family gatherings dramatically increase television viewing. We will work diligently to affect these repairs and changes as soon as humanly possible.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Changing Channels

Last week we issued a press release which described the EPB’s decision on the broadcast stations matter we have been discussing for a couple of months. In case you missed that information, this post should help make the changes, and the events which lead to these alterations to our basic cable lineup clear. The bottom line is that we were not able to convince some of the broadcasters to accept reasonable rates and those stations will disappear from our lineup on January 1. Some of those openings will be filled with new broadcast stations. Disappointingly, the prices we were able to negotiate are still such that an increase to our basic cable rates of $1.75 per month will become effective January 1, 2009. We hate doing this, but, as a non-profit corporation, we do not have the funds to absorb these increases without passing them along to our customers.

Beyond the changes to our basic cable lineup, there are also a number of changes about to happen at all levels of our various programming tiers. Although we are happy to be bringing back some old favorites like WSMV and WHAS, we are not proud of the confusion that many of you will feel when you go looking for programs you are accustomed to viewing after January 1. However, we have developed a chart that should be useful in helping you track the changes. You can view that chart by clicking on this link. As you can see, there are going to be a lot of new stations and programs in a lot of new positions. Over all, we hope you will find these changes welcome and an enhancement of our product.

We don’t want to belabor the point, but the broadcast station that is responsible for the lion’s share of the rate increase is WBKO in Bowling Green. We do not intend to forget about this cruel injustice and we don’t want you to forget either. Far too often, Glasgow’s economy leaks precious dollars to businesses in Bowling Green. The demand of WBKO and their parent company, Gray Television, Inc., for $50,000 per year from the people of Glasgow, in return for our continued right to view their programming, is overtly greedy, no matter how you slice it. In return for the new $50,000 per year charge we get nothing new from WBKO. They are not opening a local office in Glasgow and employing any local folks. They are not dedicating any new minutes of their newscasts to Glasgow issues. They are not converting their newscasts to High Definition to complement our HD tier. Rather, the real story behind this charge is likely the need of their parent company for new revenue in return for no new expense. Gray Television, Inc., (a link to their website is here) has something less than an outstanding record of financial performance. Looking at their corporate information one discovers that their common stock was selling for about $9 a year ago and, as this is written, a share of their stock is now selling for under 50 cents! In fact, the New York Stock Exchange recently notified them that their stock will be removed from the NYSE if its value continues to be so low. So, it seems a safe bet that their plan for replacing revenue that they are unable to generate by simply running an efficient business in a free market system is to gouge the cable operators and, ultimately, the viewers that are essential to their plan to sell advertising. They do not appear to be financial geniuses. In summary, in a fashion similar to the recent decisions by our government to bail out businesses who became ineffective through corruption and greed, the people of Glasgow, and other cities where they do business, are also bailing out the folks at Gray Television, Inc.

While I am ranting, you should know that the greed epidemic does not begin and end in the halls of the broadcast stations. We are also fighting a similar infection with the folks at NBC Universal. NBCU owns several services that we provide to our customers in Glasgow. They are CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Sci-Fi, Bravo, UHD and the extended Olympics Games coverage. Right now they are asking for increases in the fees charged for these services that run from 8% to 26% with the guarantee of additional increases each year of about 12%. These increases are both aggressive and unrealistic and we, along with a large number of small cable operators like us, are refusing to agree to these increases. Although it would really surprise me if they cut off our signals from these services on January 1 as our discussions continue, it is certainly within the range of possibilities. It seems that greed knows no boundaries of conventional wisdom.

Finally, it is that time of year again when our refusal to cave in to the outlandish demands of the folks at Fox Sports Net South results in our customers not being able to watch a few University of Kentucky Men’s basketball games. As most UK fans already know, FSNS has exclusive broadcast rights to five UK vs. “Cupcake U” games each year and this year is no exception. Those games are as follows and they will not be available on our cable system:

Dec. 3rd, UK vs Lamar
Dec. 7th, UK vs Mississipp Valley St.
Dec. 20th, UK vs Appalachian St.
Dec. 27th, UK vs Florida Atlantic
Dec. 29th, UK vs Central Michigan

The only hope for watching these games may be to go to www.espn360.com and watch them on your computer!

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