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NECN to stay in cable lineup


Berkshire Eagle 12/21/2013, Page A01

 Time Warner reverses its decision to remove the news channel from the Berkshires and elsewhere in New England.

By Clarence Fanto

Special to The Eagle

Responding to pressure from lawmakers and an outpouring of complaints from customers, Time Warner Cable reversed course late Friday, agreeing to keep New England Cable News on its systems in Berkshire County and elsewhere in New England.

The decision was announced by Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., in a brief statement from his Washington office.

“ Christmas has come early for the Berkshires with Time Warner’s decision to continue carrying NECN in its channel lineup,” said Markey in a prepared statement.

“NECN is a valuable source of information for Massachusetts and New England news and keeps the western part of the Commonwealth connected to the larger region,” Markey continued. “ I commend Time Warner for listening to its customers and reversing its decision.”

Markey, along with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, had sent a strongly worded letter to Time Warner CEO Glenn Britt last week demanding that the decision to yank NECN be reviewed.

State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, and state Reps. William “Smitty” Pignatelli, Paul Mark, Gailanne Cariddi and Tricia Farley-Bouvier also were active in seeking a reversal of the cable giant’s decision.

“After further discussion, we’re pleased to announce continued carriage of NECN for our customers in New England,” Time Warner officials stated. “Time Warner Cable customers who currently have access to NECN will continue to have access after Jan. 1, 2014; there will be no disruption in service.”

“NECN has now agreed to work with our leadership at Time Warner Cable News to improve the quality of their local programming for our customers,” the statement continued. It was issued by John Mucha, director of government relations for TMC’s Northeast- Albany/ Hudson Valley region.

There was no immediate comment from NBCUniversal, whose Comcast cable company — the nation’s largest — owns New England Cable News.

As recently as one week ago, Time Warner emphasized that its decision to drop NECN was final, despite the plea from the state’s Washington, D.C., lawmakers and an outcry from cable subscribers.

In their letter delivered Dec. 13 to Britt, the TWC CEO, the legislators wrote: “Given that NECN is the only 24- hour source of televised regional news coverage available to Massachusetts residents, we strongly support maintaining its availability to TWC subscribers in the Berkshires.”

“Without NECN, Berkshire communities will be severed from other parts of the Commonwealth,” the letter continued, “and be left without access to a wide range of important information about Massachusetts and the rest of New England.”

Responding to the letter last Friday night, Time Warner said that while it always seeks to keep the lines of communication open, there would be no change in its decision to discontinue NECN.

On Dec. 12, the Berkshire delegation also formally protested the Time Warner action.

Soon after Time Warner had notified customers through a legal ad placed in The Eagle and other media that it was terminating NECN, TWC public relations executive Scott Pryzwansky stated that “we do not believe NECN represents a good value for all of our New England customers. Value includes several factors, including cost, viewership and unique content.”

At the time, he described the decision as final.

To contact Clarence Fanto: cfanto@yahoo.com or(413) 637-2551 On Twitter: @BE_cfanto