Friday, November 13, 2015

Sweating The Contract

Amherst Media is main beneficiary of Comcast ten year contract

Even though the Comcast ten year cable license -- worth $6.3 million last year -- does not expire until October, 2016 the Cable Advisory Committee started off this morning's meeting somewhat in panic mode.

Co-Chair Kris Pacunas is worried a deadline or two in the complicated process could have been missed which would give Comcast added bargaining strength whenever they do finally sit down at the negotiation table.

At their initial mid-June meeting, their 1st since 2006, Peter Epstein, their $200/hour legal counsel, did say he wished to send Comcast an "initial contract offer" by November 1st.  And as of this morning the Committee was miles away from having that contract prepared.

In fact their attorney has not even yet provided them with a contract template that contains all the boiler plate language that is standard with any cable contract.  And the all important timeline is now out of date.

Attorney Epstein at 9/24 Ascertainment Hearing (and Comcast stenographer)

The Committee will be sending attorney Epstein a memo outlining their complaints about his performance to date and they will also be contacting the Select Board, who has final authority to sign the lucrative contract, as well.

He did attend one of the two required "Ascertainment Hearings" co-sponsored by the Cable Advisory Committee and Select Board but does not keep in close touch with the committee.

Mr. Epstein came highly recommended by Amherst Media who benefits by the 5% cut of Comcast revenues ($317,000 last year).   That 5% amount is written in stone, and these days may not even be a slam dunk.

The main bargaining issue seems to be the one-time capital upgrade to equipment that comes once every ten years.

In the last 2006 contract that amounted to $450,000, and this time around Amherst Media is looking for many times over that for the ability to broadcast their 3 channels in high definition.

Left to rt: Adrienne Terrizzi, Kris Pacunas (Co-Chair), Joan Golowich, Demetria Shabazz (Co-Chair)

In addition, one Cable Advisory member of the five has showed up to only one meeting so far,  and now that the heavy lifting has started Co-Chair Pakunas said he would contact him to find out if he will stay on the committee or not.

Next meeting the agenda calls for the Committee to have from attorney Epstein a new timeline with specific dates, a one page "summary of community needs" which includes the 5% cut of cable revenues, amount of one time capital needs money, maintain local customer service office, etc.

The Committee will also discuss having the Select Board file a complaint with Comcast over breach of the 2006 license which required all town buildings to be hard wired for live broadcast capability.

Over the years parts have been cannibalized from other locations like Jones Library, DPW, Police Station or High School in order to prioritize Town Hall and the Middle School (where Town Meeting takes place).

So not only do a majority of town buildings no longer have the ability to live broadcast, but even the two major buildings (Town Hall and the Middle School) where all the important meetings occur, the outdated equipment teeters on the brink of ruin.

Next meeting is scheduled for Monday November 30th.  But before the Committee adjourned Co-Chair Pakunas told fellow members, "I feel better now."


Anonymous said...

"Amherst Media is looking for many times over that for the ability to broadcast their 3 channels in high definition."

Yeah, watching a town meeting in "high definition" is really gonna make a big difference. What a waste.

Anonymous said...

unless not having HD is problematic for viewing (ie only some devices accept HD), I cannot see what programming offered by Amherst Media would be enhanced by HD (quite the contrary...)

Hilda Greenbaum said...

As the current screen is wider and shorter than HD, Board members who are televised will greatly and gratefully appreciate HD and the 100 pounds they will lose in the transition.

Anonymous said...

LOL Hilda well done

In addition to that priceless benefit, it also would enhance readability of text and other documents shown on the screen.

Frankly I think improving audio to be the best possible, would be a better investment.

Anonymous said...

Anyone watch The Bruce Show last night? That guy is a whack job. Had his gun out on his sofa ranting about right wing politics. Thanks, Amherst Media. You're a bastion of culture.

Anonymous said...

Remember when businesses competed and customers decided?

Those who have lived outside of Amherst may be old enough to remember such things. They could have also killed two birds with one stone and settled the debate on horse and buggy standards at the same meeting.

Anonymous said...

Please, I can remember when T.V's were free and phones were affordable by all. Not the case these days. Lets sit there and bang on ours phones and ignore everything else. Thank you Steve Jobs....a--hole.

Anonymous said...

heh, I know= why doesn't Ms Geryk offer them the ARMS to move into? Its about the only entity left to ask... The small amount of $ raised through fund raising ought to be viewed as our community's interest and value of Amherst Media. I hope they are listening....

Anonymous said...

Larry- Can you provide a photo of Mill River for the official town site-

This is pathetic (is it really Mill River?)

Anonymous said...

Can't say I saw the show, but I take it you'd prefer a rant about left-wing politics. Don't we get enough of that in the schools here? And, of corse we do have the right to arm and protect ourselves. Probably should, too given the attacks on citizens by Isis which, according to the potus is "contained." Again, I didn't see the show in question, though.

Anonymous said...

Oh yes. Steve Jobs. A real moron. Lol. Not smart at all like 6:46.