Tampa council wants the city to sue Bright House
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10/18/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:

The Tampa City Council ramped up its opposition to a plan by Bright House Networks that could ultimately decrease viewership to the city’s Government Channel.

In less than two months, analog subscribers in the Tampa bay area will lose access to PEG channels. And for the majority of viewers watching on digital cable, those channels – representing Public access, Education and the Government - will move from the current spot in the lowest channel number slot to a much higher slot, which councilmembers believe will significantly reduce those watching local city council meetings.

City Attorney David Smith said that he has heard that both St. Petersburg and Manatee Counties are contemplating suing Bright House for similar moves in their localities.

City Councilwoman Linda Saul-Sena told Smith the council wanted him and the Pam Iorio administration to do whatever it takes to challenge the move by Bright House. The company also plans to charge those who don’t subscribe to cable $1 a month to rent a box to access the PEG channels.

As he said at an earlier Council meeting, John Dingfelder said the move was discriminatory toward lower income people, and also would limit citizens' exposure to local government.

Dingfelder insisted it wasn’t a matter of ego, but said more people would get their information about Tampa city issues via Channel 15, and not newspapers. He did not mention radio.

He then made a motion asking that the mayor hire outside counsel if necessary and file an injunction sooner rather than later.

WMNF contacted Bright House Networks' Florida corporate office in Orlando for comment.

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