Maplewood Area Cable Franchise Survey

The City of Maplewood has noticed its plan to withdraw from the Ramsey-Washington Suburban Cable Commission as well as to invite CenturyLink into the market as a competitive cable provider to its citizens.  While the vote to accept CenturyLink and grant them a franchise has not been officially made, the City would like to take time to explain some of the rationale for these historic changes to you, the citizens, to help make sense of decision.

The City of Maplewood has been looking to the Commission for more support and more effort in providing meaningful content to its residents via Channel 16, Maplewood’s government access ‘channel.’  While the cities in the Commission do get a fair amount of their franchise fee money back from the Commission, that is not the same as getting the organization to get the City’s message out—arguably a more important and specific task.  Nonetheless, much money is retained by the Commission and should be used for its dedicated purpose, which includes governmental programming; the “G” in PEG.

The City has been able to consider its decision to move away from the Commission with the benefit of a study that was commissioned to gauge the attitudes of the viewers of PEG programming.  The survey sampled 400 residents in the Commission’s service area and was structured so-as to proportionately sample from the Cities as their membership numbers defined.  In the case of Maplewood, the City has approximately 26% of the subscribers in the Commission’s service area and thus a little of 100 ‘calls’ in the survey were to Maplewood residents.  Those sampled in the City were also gender-balanced.

The survey revealed a great deal about the viewership and general consumption of PEG by Maplewood citizens.  The good news was that Channel 16 was THE most-watched channel of the dedicated PEG channels.  The bad news is that even though it was the most-watched, viewership landed somewhere between CSPAN and QVC, cable channels that garner less than 16% of the subscriber viewership.

The survey also affirmed what the City suspected was true regarding the remaining PEG channels: beyond Channel 16 virtually nobody watches the remaining channels at all and that many viewers would like the number of PEG channels reduced/eliminated.  Similarly the vast majority of the surveyed households did not want to pay anything for this PEG content if they wanted it at all.

The City has also learned that only 1% of cable subscribers surveyed look at local community access cable for information and to find out what’s going on around them in their respective community. This puts Channel 16 behind EVERY other form of media sampled (broadcast, print, radio and on-line).

In choosing to break from the Commission, the City would like to and plans to address many of the concerns identified by the survey.  The City will be reducing the number of channels it programs to concentrate content, for example.  It will also program more schedules, information and public service information to support the spirit and intent of the Channel.  Finally it will attempt to maintain or reduce the cost of this PEG programming to better-meet the expectations of its citizens as surveyed.

The City has been asked to provide CenturyLink with an opportunity to offer its services to you as well during this transition out of the Cable Commission.  If the City provides a Franchise to CenturyLink that will have no impact on PEG from a consumer standpoint as they will have to provide the same PEG access as Comcast does.  CenturyLink may in fact allow you to view many other city’s Governmental content depending on the level of service they bring into the City.