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City Council considering raising price for cable TV
Times consumer affairs Reporter
The Seattle City Council is considering raising cable-television rates as part of its 10-year deal with Comcast, which provides almost all the cable for the 65 percent of Seattle households who subscribe.
The proposed increase would be small — about 35 cents on the average $45 monthly bill. The additional money would go mostly toward more local arts programming and for SCAN Community Media, a public-access channel where local residents can film and air their own shows à la "Wayne's World."
Although it's difficult to track viewership of local programming, a 2004 survey showed that while most viewers have never watched SCAN, the Seattle Community Access Network, 81 percent think it's important.
Comcast has to make a deal with the city once a decade because it uses the city's right of way to run its cables and house its equipment. Hours of negotiating have produced a proposal by Mayor Greg Nickels' staff. Now the City Council will consider whether it's a good deal.
The City Council's Energy and Technology Committee will hold a public hearing at 5:30 tonight at Seattle Center in the Shaw Room, which is just north of KeyArena.
"I'm enthused about some elements of the franchise agreement," said committee chairwoman Jean Godden.
The hearing pits SCAN against the local arts community, in some sense, because they are competing for the same money.
SCAN asked for $1.2 million annually, but they would get $500,000 under the mayor's recommendation. Last year, its budget was about $650,000.
"I believe this agency is going to be starved," said Executive Director Ann Suter.
She anticipates laying off employees, decreasing the hours the station is open to the public and cutting back work the station does with nonprofits.
The station would get the building it is housed in — a rundown turn-of-the-century house with a hole in the bathroom floor and serious heating and cooling problems.
"This is a terrible building — terrible," Suter said.
Comcast owns the building but will give it to SCAN so the station has an asset. The building and land off of Aurora Avenue North in Seattle is worth about $750,000.
Meanwhile, members of the arts community are thrilled. The Arts Commission recently sent city government its unanimous endorsement of the increased arts programming, called Art Zone.
SCAN is lobbying for the council to raise cable rates even more — an expense Comcast said it would pass on to customers.
This year's negotiation with Comcast could be the last. Congress is considering legislation that would allow cable companies to negotiate franchise agreements with the federal government instead of negotiating community by community.
That's one reason Seattle is in a hurry to get this franchise agreement settled, said Tom Van Bronkhorst, a member of Godden's staff.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company