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Between the Lines: I Want My NECN

Please, Time Warner, do the right thing!

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

It isn’t often that I find myself feeling grateful that Comcast is my cable provider. Like most people, I suspect, I’m more inclined to grumble about my bill than rave about the bounty of high-def channels I can enjoy.

By the same token, it’s not often that I feel any particular gratitude to U.S. Congressmen Richard E. Neal or Edward J. Markey, and I’m only slightly more laudatory when it comes to U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

But here I am, thanking my lucky stars that Comcast is my cable provider. Why? Because Comcast not only will continue to carry New England Cable News, but the cable company saw enough value in the high quality of broadcast journalism produced by NECN that it bought the award-winning station in 2009. (Comcast also contributes to NECN’s daily offerings by supplying sports coverage through sister network Comcast SportsNet.)

I’m also thankful to that triumvirate of politicians for seeing NECN for what it’s worth.

Sadly, not all cable providers see the value in providing viewers with access to the largest 24-hour regional news network in the country, the only cable television news station to earn a George Foster Peabody Award and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Broadcast Journalism Award, and the winner of a National Edward R. Murrow Award. For Time Warner Cable, which recently announced its decision to drop NECN from its lineup, the news network isn’t lucrative enough to justify a slot in its list of channels. The move will mean that cable subscribers in Maine, New Hampshire and the Berkshires will lose NECN, now part of every basic package across New England, at the end of the year. News that Time Warner will drop NECN as of Dec. 31 followed an announcement earlier this month that it was adding new channels to its lineup, including Al Jazeera America and Smithsonian.

“We do not believe NECN represents a good value for all of our New England customers,” said Scott Pryzwansky, Time Warner Cable’s director of public relations, in a recent email to the Bangor Daily News. “Value includes several factors, including cost, viewership and unique content.” Pryzwansky has said repeatedly that the decision is final.

Meanwhile, Time Warner’s decision has caused a backlash, drawing fierce criticisms from politicians from across New England and from across the political spectrum. Neal, Markey and Warren are three of the most prominent figures asking Time Warner to reverse course.

As a person with an interest in the parts of New England other than the part where I live, I view NECN as a force for regional unity. Surely New England gets far more value from NECN on a daily basis than it will ever get from a cable company that only worries about its bottom line.•

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