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Public access regains third TV channel

Springfield CBS affiliate gone in Southbridge

Paul Zotos. (click for larger version)
December 27, 2009
SOUTHBRIDGE — After nearly a decade, the town will be getting its third cable channel, Channel 11, back.

"We have about two months to get ready," said Cable Director Paul Zotos. " [The effort started] probably three months ago. We've always wanted to do it and took a couple runs at it, but couldn't do it."

He's referring to the fact that, in 2001 when the town last negotiated with Charter Communications, Southbridge agreed to give up its rights to the third public access channel towns normally get. It kept two — one for general use and one for town government — but ceded its educational channel because some people in authority at the time wanted to be able to watch New York Jets football games, he said. Those were only available regionally on WFSB-TV, the CBS affiliate out of Hartford, Conn.

Shortly thereafter, in late 2003 WFSB's owner, Meredith Broadcasting, chose to buy a small Springfield station, WSHM-TV, Channel 67, created a CBS affiliate for Western Massachusetts and replaced WFSB with it throughout the region. That essentially left the town "with a blank channel for eight years," Zotos said.

Not long ago, however, John Gatti joined the station, heard about the problem, and took a look at the town's Charter contract. On page 49, he found the key issue, which states, "said channel shall revert to the issuing authority [the town] for access in the event said Hartford signal is no longer cablecast in Southbridge," except if that change is due to the town's own actions.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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