Squelching a Community’s Voice

You probably remember a comedy movie that came out a few years ago titled “The Cable Guy.” Today’s story is a travesty about real-life cable guys, known as Charter Communications.

Hundreds in LA protest Charter to Save Horizon Armenian Television.

Hundreds in LA protest Charter to Save Horizon Armenian Television.

No doubt you’ve already heard that Charter has unilaterally, and without meaningful prior notice, decided to eliminate Horizon TV from its lineup of channels. This, despite the fact that Horizon had just signed a renewal contract with Charter in December, even accepting a 25 percent rate hike! That’s quite a steep increase for the kind of economic conditions we’re in now. (For full disclosure, the publication in which you’re reading this article is affiliated with Horizon.)

Despite all this, Charter is hell bent on screwing the Armenian community through its despicable decision. So it’s natural to wonder, and ask, “Why?”

That’s what people in the area that Charter covers—Burbank, Glendale, La Crescenta, and the western part of La Cañada-Flintridge, which house what is probably the densest Armenian community in the United States—have been doing. They’ve called, complained to, and asked Charter, “Why?”

Guess what they’re getting for an answer. It’s not one answer, but five mutually contradictory ones! Callers are told:

1- Horizon didn’t sign the contract (FALSE); or

2- Horizon returned the signed contract too late (FALSE); or

3- Horizon didn’t want to renew (FALSE); or

4- There are already too many Armenian channels (FALSE); or

5- Another Armenian channel will be opening up (it turns out this is true, which adds to the intrigue).

I don’t have to tell you that when someone is lying, or trying to cover up, they’ll often trip themselves up as Charter has done. How can Horizon not have signed the contract (#1), if Horizon returned it (#2)? And why would Horizon have returned the contract if they didn’t want to renew it (#3)? And who is Charter to tell our community that there are already too many Armenian channels (#4), and then turn around and say that another Armenian channel is starting up (#5) after Horizon gets shut down?

Clearly, Charter’s action is causing the public in its coverage area harm. This is a key consideration. Here’s why.

The 1934 Communications Act, which established the ground rules for broadcasting in the U.S. and created the Federal Communications Commission, has at its heart one fundamental precept: The airwaves belong to the public.

Later, cable TV came along and created a dilemma. It required extensive and expensive hard-wiring. So, if different providers ran cables in the same area, costs would become prohibitive. The solution was to grant a monopoly to one provider, and in exchange that provider had to give the community they were serving some free channels for valuable, enriching, programming, not just commercial stuff. You get the idea—the public is entitled to the benefits of the airwaves it owns.

Clearly, Charter Communications is transgressing against this fundamental precept of providing the public, in this case the huge Armenian public, with programming of merit. Consider that all but two of the Armenian channels are commercial outfits with folks making a living off of entertainment. One of the non-commercial channels provides religiously oriented programming. That leaves only Horizon as the provider of primarily community-oriented programming — news, analysis, politics, culture, developments in all parts of Armenia and the diaspora, etc.

Of course, the management at Horizon is fighting this malfeasance, and hard. Our help is needed. There’s an online petition that you should sign telling Charter clean up its act:

Protests are being held in front of Charter’s offices in Glendale, on 6246 San Fernando Rd. You can help save our Horizon. On Fri., Feb. 8, a protest will be held in front of Charter’s regional headquarters in Irwindale (4781 N Irwindale Ave.), from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Be there. You’ve got a week to prepare.

Some of you may live far away from the epicenter of this wholly man-made, suspicion-arousing disaster, and still want to help. Of course, you can sign the petition. But, if your own cable company is Charter, call them and give them an earful about how dissatisfied you are.

We should all be reminding Charter that its contracts with the cities it serves must be renewed periodically. We should be telling Charter’s bigwigs that we will remember their odious behavior now and work to remove the company as the cable provider anywhere and everywhere we can.

Let’s beat back this unwarranted attack against one of the mainstays of our community.

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