NASHUA — Despite a groundswell of public and political support, Comcast officials said this week that they will move forward with the plan to drop WYCN TV 13 Nashua from the station's programming.
"They said ( Monday) they are sticking to their original position, and they are turning us off on Sept. 3," said reporter Carolyn Choate, who is also the program manager for the low-power station that covers news and community events in the Greater Nashua area.
"We can't figure it out," Choate said.
Comcast has said it is dropping the station because of its lack of community programming, and Choate acknowledges under its former owners that local news had slipped. But Over The Air, or OTA Broadcasting, a Virginia-based company owned by computer pioneer Michael Dell, bought TV 13 last spring and has been rebuilding its community programming with Choate and her husband, Gordon Jackson.
But just as Choate, Jackson and TV 13 were getting back on track, Comcast announced it was pulling the plug. Once the cable giant drops TV 13, only homes within roughly a mile radius of the low-power station, which is located on Industrial Park Drive, will be able to pick up the signal and watch any local programming.
"We have more than 1,400 names on paper and online petitions," Choate said. A bagful of letters of support from the New Hampshire congressional delegation, Gov. Maggie Hassan, Mayor Donnalee Lozeau and a slew of business and civic leaders all explain how much they value TV 13's local reporting.
Nashua's public access cable station has also voiced support for TV 13, explaining that the two stations have different missions and provide different types of programming.
But Comcast, which has a reputation for being responsive to viewers' interests and needs, has been tone deaf on the issue of TV 13.
"They said we got a modicum of support," said Choate, who repeated the word modicum as if she were trying to figure out Comcast's definition of the word.
Although there has been speculation that the cable company may want the bandwidth freed up for other services and products, Comcast has only said that TV 13's local programming is lacking.
If Comcast drops TV 13, Choate and Jackson will continue to produce the local content for TV 13 required by the station's broadcast license. OTA will also move ahead with its costly plan to convert from analog to digital broadcasting.
According to different news reports on the broadcast industry, companies like OTA have been buying television stations and licenses to prepare for the upcoming Federal Communications Commission auction of the airwaves, or spectrum, to transmission-hungry companies offering cellphone and other types of wireless service. Choate has said OTA intends to develop its own television network.