Public TV May Soon Be Not-So-Public

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The debate is heating up over public access television, and Charter Cable Company's plan to make it a little less public.

Many residents of our community are not happy about this move. Charter's plan is to move our local public service channels from basic cable...which for nearly 20 years, has been on channels 13,15, 16 and 17...up to the digital tier, which would change those channels up to the 200's.

The move could not only limit access to public t-v for thousands of people, but it could also be very costly.

The city council chamber was packed with people protesting Charter's plan to take away easy access to public TV.

Those who oppose the move say it would force people to pay an extra five dollars a month for a digital cable box, plus a $30 dollar installation fee...and it would hurt those who need it the most.

"The shut-ins, the mentally ill, the poor, the people who cant afford it will hurt a lot, as well as our general public," said protester, Bunchie Tyler of Reno.

Think of it like this...when you watch commercial news stations like KOLO 8, you get a small slice of many different community issues...but when you watch public access TV, you can see an entire city council meeting, without ever leaving your home.

Protesters say the move will deny us access to our government, and lead to apathy about important community issues. They say for many, public TV is their only link to the community.

"I'm a community organizer and I've used it for a number of things that I've done. I've organized an anti-Patriot Act campaign and I'm also involved with electric cars," said protester, Bob Tregilus of Reno.

Andrew Barbano, a founder and longtime supporter of public TV, says the move would cut viewership by nearly 90 percent. He says it's unfair for Charter to charge people for something they've always paid for through franchise fees. He says the company could profit from the move by 12-million dollars.

"Charter is greedy and they're on the verge of bankruptcy. Check any financial website. It's going on across the country, cutting access and securing more bandwidth for commercial stations...that's all it is, it's a pure money grab and they do not have the law on their side," said Barbano.

We contacted Charter's local office, but have not heard back from them yet.

City Council members and the mayor said they are in favor of leaving the channels the way they are... and said they'll address the issue next Wednesday at their meeting.

Barbano says if the council isn't successful in defeating Charter, he plans to head to court next week, to sue the cable company and put a temporary restraining order in place.

Council members say they'll also be working with the state legislature in order to find a more permanent solution to keeping public access TV available to the public.

Barbano has also created a cable consumer defense fund, where people can send money to help fight for public access television. You can find it at: