Some Comcast cable customers in Wheeling, Weirton and other panhandle communities are finding themselves without West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s TV stations.
According to West Virginia Public Radio, the non-comm TV network worked out an agreement for Comcast to carry its programming in high-definition.
But that bumped the state’s primary PBS outlet to a digital-only service and displaced it from conventional analog cable. Comcast customers in West Virginia who can’t find WVPB must either purchase a newer TV or request a special converter box.
As many as 30 percent of Comcast’s West Virginia customers are affected. (The stations can still be received for free over-the-air with an antenna, on digital 33 in Morgantown and digital 30 in Wheeling.)
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The executive director of WVPB, Dennis Adkins, says the network had no idea that many of its viewers would lose access.
Unlike Pennsylvania’s public TV stations, which are independent and rely heavily on donations, West Virginia’s public TV service is operated by the state government.
A state senator from Monongalia County says the situation is “unacceptable,” and U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller’s office is looking into legal or legislative options that would require Comcast to offer West Virginia Public Broadcasting as part of its basic package.
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One WVPB producer and Comcast customer, Amy Johns, says it’s not right that taxpayers who subsidize the service have to pay extra to receive it via cable.
She’s upset that Comcast has displaced WVPB but still carries Pittsburgh’s WQED-TV.
“I think the people need to wake up and realize Morgantown is not a suburb of Pittsburgh,” Johns says.