Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Where’d the Weather Network Go?

As many of you know, I have digital cable with the movies package. I have over 500-channels to choose from.

Last month, I got a notice with my cable bill telling me my cable provider was re-structuring channel line-ups. They moved two channels off of basic cable and onto the digital cable line-up to make room for two other channels.

Fine – I’d still get all the same channels, because I have digital cable.

Though it would have been nice if my cable provider had told me the listing of the new channels. When you get used to finding say, channel WBKW on channel 176 and it moves to channel 331 – it would have been nice to know that. I missed the first 10-minutes of Jeopardy because of that!

The more channels you have, the longer it takes to find things when they aren’t where they used to be.

It is cool to be able to see the television listings for a whole week – I have an interactive program guide with my digital cable, which does just that.

But I learned something else recently about digital programming. As more and more of us get it, it will eventually cost us all more and more money.

Sure, there are advantages to the digital cable over regular analogue cable. I have better picture and sound quality, as it is a pure digital signal. I get Dolby Surround Sound, and I have access to time shifting – so I never miss my favorite shows.

Here comes the “but” that I didn’t know until today. According to the regulations, once 85 percent of a cable company’s customers have digital cable, the cable company is allowed to allocate their channel line-ups as they see fit, without notifying the stations or its subscribers.

This way, the regulators ensure everyone has access to some basic channels: CBC, CTV, GlobalTV, the Weather Network and a few others which have always been regulated onto the basic cable stream.

While watching the Weather Network today, they ran a quick notice about how my local cable provider has put in a request to move it to the digital stream, as they have reached the 85 percent or greater digital subscriber base.

That doesn’t affect me yet – as I have digital cable, I’d still get the Weather Network. However, once on the digital stream, the cable company could easily turn around and say that it is a specialty channel, and part of a different grouping of channels that I don’t subscribe too. Meaning, I’d have to pay extra to see my local forecasts on TV.

I believe channels like the Weather Network serve a fundamental community service. During severe storms in all seasons, I’m tuning into the Weather Network to see what is going on. I often turn on the Weather Network before leaving for the day, to ensure I am dressed for the weather.

Placing the Weather Network on higher tier cable packages prevents everyone from accessing important information that really affects them. And it is a plain and simple money grab attempt by the cable operators.

Cable companies are in business to make money – all companies are. But to take away a fundamental community service in the guise of better programming, when it is nothing more than a cash grab is wrong.

I never thought too much when the government regulated that the aboriginal television station be mandated to basic cable. Yeah, we white men took their land, raped their wives, and gave them smallbox and other diseases. That was long before you, me, our parents and our grandparents were even born.

Big deal.

But the Weather Network affects us all. Weather really does impact our lives daily here in Canada. In the summer we have extreme heat alerts and in the winter extreme cold alerts.

We probably live in the worst place weather-wise, because we go from one extreme to another.

Which is why everyone should have access to the Weather Network – even if you don’t have digital cable.

You can help out – tell the federal government what you think of their regulations and how it affects the Weather Network. Check out this website:

Take a stand against the big cable operators and their money grab.

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