Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Maryland Public Television Snows Leisure World

By Rocky Lopes.

On April 14, 2009, without notice to customers, Maryland Public Television (MPT) converted to digital-only service. People who view MPT via basic Comcast service suddenly found snow on Channel 22. This was very upsetting to residents of Leisure World, in particular, since they view Channel 22 using the master cable infrastructure provided by Leisure World to its residents and funded through monthly assessments charged by the mutuals.

This incensed me when I found out about it. I have family and friends who live in Leisure World who described with angst (and some anger) that they thought can't get MPT any more. I wrote to MPT, and eventually received a "fact sheet" (reproduced below) describing the options. Essentially what they are saying if I read it correctly is that Comcast is required to provide ONE public television station in the basic, non-digital tier, and that MPT is not the one. They don't say it, but we know that the one public broadcast channel that Comcast must provide in Montgomery County is WETA (Channel 26).

Thus, the only way to get MPT in Leisure World any more is to do one of three things, according to their fact sheet:

1. Install an antenna. Yeah, right: outdoor antennas are against the covenants of Leisure World.

2. Get a digital converter box for Channel 22 from Comcast which will be provided free for one year (after that, there will be a monthly fee.)

3. Convert to the digital tier, requiring installation of a digital box and payment of a monthly digital service fee (on top of the fees included for Comcast by the fees assessed to residents by the mutuals).

The problem is, at least for my loved-ones who live there, they are not interested in using one type of set-up to watch one channel, and then switch to another set-up to watch others. Switching inputs is a technological challenge to many.

My perception in reading between the lines of what MPT provided in their "fact sheet" is that there is sniping going on between MPT and Comcast, each blaming the other for this problem.

Meanwhile, Channel 22 is dark for those unable or unwilling to install yet another technologically challenging system to get it back.

It's such a shame this has to happen. It has nothing to do with DTV transition that will occur nationwide on June 12, yet similar issues arise. If MPT does this, what's next? It just plain ain't fair.