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Posted by Ricardo Kaulessar, Urban Times News on August 15, 2003 at 15:49:58:

Urban Times News
by Ricardo Kaulessar -

In a letter to Comcast Cable TV dated June 23, 2003, Mia Scanga, the host of the public access political affairs show Talking Politics that broadcasts on the public access Channel 51 (accessible on both Comcast and Cablevision cable TV systems), addressed the pressing issue of the poor quality of equipment available and the inaccessibility of that equipment for those who produce public access programming for Comcast.

The letter addressed to Peter Lyden, the Regional Director of Government Relations for Comcast Cable TV, paints an embarrassing picture of public access producers using video equipment dating back to the 1980’s for shows that broadcast over a digital-based medium, poorly functioning and/or broken tape decks in the Comcast studio in Jersey City, subjected to inconvenient daytime hours for equipment pickup and return and having their programs pre-empted for programming from other commercial cable networks such as MTV2, and more recently the YES Network amongst other problems.

Scanga, a resident of Jersey City for 20 years who currently works full-time as a mortgage banker in New York City, requested in her letter that Comcast put additional funds into acquiring control room equipment and upgrading the wiring for broadcast transmission. She pointed out that $14,000 out of a request of $40,000 was granted but that was still insufficient.

“New carpeting was put into the control room but I was told that was from a different budget, and some new editing decks were also installed but they are also consumer decks which can break easily, so who knows where the money went”, said Scanga in a recent interview with the Urban Times News.

Inquiries about Scanga’s request and the conditions of the Jersey City Comcast studio were posed to Peter Lyden and Ruben Rodriquez, Comcast Public Access Coordinator but all questions were referred to Jeff Alexander, spokesman for Comcast Cable in New Jersey.

Alexander in a carefully worded statement was adamant that “we’re firmly committed to public access and maintain a full and active schedule. Channel 51 shows public access programs seven days a week after 1 P.M. on weekends and 5 P.M. on weekdays. Comcast has invested tens of thousands of dollars in equipment upgrades that have delivered improved broadcast quality and a greater variety of shows. The majority of the studio equipment is high-end technology. New digital cameras were purchased in 2001 and 2002. And editing decks were replaced with digital models in 2002. And the studio was fully re-wired. We purchased approximately $25,000 of field production and editing equipment in 1998.”

Scanga’s battle with Comcast over what she sees as the shirking of their commitment to provide quality public access programming in the communities they serve goes back to June 2002, a month after the initial broadcast of her Talking Politics show.

In a letter to Paul Mackey, the Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Jersey City, dated June 10, 2002, Scanga detailed the existing condition of the equipment in use, the equipment that needed to be replaced and the cost of the replacement equipment. But she also tackles the larger issues that were not addressed when Comcast had their franchise agreement renewed with the City of Jersey City to be the cable provider in 1998 during ex-Mayor Schundler’s term.

What was pointed out was the fact that Schundler allowed Comcast to get away with committing only $25,000 for the purchase of VFP, or video field production equipment and editing equipment. Also, the fact that no studio access was provided for use by public access producers to do any studio discussions, which Scanga contrasts with Cablevision which allows public access producers to use their studio facilities in Bayonne and North Bergen.

Comcast operates just one studio in Hudson County, located inside the Cable TV of Jersey City office on Kennedy Boulevard. The studio continues to provide for the production of such shows as “Council Perspectives” “The Mayor’s Show” which are broadcast on Channel 1, which has hardly been plagued by the problems that Channel 51 has suffered through.

But suggestions are made in the letter to remedy a bad situation, such as an annual assessment of the equipment and facilities to determine their condition and the upgrades needed as well as a breakdown of the equipment costs, the depreciation of much of the equipment’s value and the cost of replacements. The letter can be found on the Website,,

For her efforts to alert the public about Comcast, in her words, “nickel and diming” Public Access, Scanga has had her Comcast Internet account destroyed in July 2002, as she recalls after a meeting between Peter Lyden of Comcast and Asst. Counsel Mackey in Jersey City. Also, there has been little response from the Mayor’s Office, members of the City Council, representatives from the State Senate and Assembly, U.S. Representative Robert Menendez’s office, other governmental bodies and the press.

However, the exceptions has been from U.S. Senator Jon Corzine’s office and the State of New Jersey Board of Public Utilities through their Office of Cable Television.

Karen Marlowe, Coordinator of State and Local Planning, North, in a July 15, 2003 letter to Peter Lyden spelled out for him that “Comcast’s contention that it has the right to use the public access channel for overflow sports programming is not correct absent an agreement from the City allowing such alternate usage.” That was in response to a letter by Lyden claiming that it was “proper and reasonable” to broadcast Nets games on Channel 51 during their playoff run because of the conflict with Yankees games.

But Scanga continues to produce her show since she feels that people need to know what’s going on their neighborhoods and that there are important issues that need to be tackled immediately. She also sees her problems with Comcast as part of a larger problem as she believes that Comcast is getting rid of public access programming in the communities where they operate across the country to solve their financial problems as a result of the recent acquisition of AT&T Broadband Systems.

For more information on Comcast public access and Mia Scanga’s problems with Comcast, check her Talking Politics website and also e-mail her at to receive updates on the situation and to receive a list of the officials to register complaints.

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