OH: Wadsworth irked over funding halt by Time Warner

Posted on February 7, 2008 - 8:53am.

Medina Gazette

Wadsworth irked over funding halt by Time Warner
February 6th, 2008
Staff Writer

The city of Wadsworth may take official action against Time Warner Cable after the company halted its funding of a portion of the city’s public education and government (PEG) programming on WCTV.

“There may be an unfunded obligation that Time Warner has in respect to the PEG channels,” said Wadsworth Service Director Chris Easton.

He noted the city has the option of filing a petition with the Ohio director of commerce challenging Time Warner’s actions.

“We’re seeking a legal opinion on that matter and we’re trying to determine if that’s the right course of action,” Easton said.

For 15 years prior to 2008, the city and Time Warner Cable shared the costs of the programming proportionately. Time Warner paid the city a $112,000 operating grant annually, which is 60 percent of the total operating costs of PEG programming. Time Warner holds a 60 percent share of the cable subscribers in the city, Easton said.

However, after the Ohio Cable Act in 2007 passed, cable providers no longer are required to be franchised with the city and are only to be franchised with the state, said Chris Thomas, Time Warner of Northeast Ohio’s director of government and media relations.

Thomas said Time Warner purchased a franchise with the state last year. It no longer holds a franchise with the city, but still pays a franchising fee to Wadsworth. Starting this year, Time Warner will not pay the operating grant for the PEG programming, he said.

In a press release dated Jan. 22, Mayor Robin Laubaugh included the advice of legal counsel: “Section 1332.30 (E) of the new Ohio Cable Act requires all cable and video providers to bear a proportional share of any unfulfilled obligation for PEG Channel facilities that existed on the effective date of the legislation.”

Thomas explained his company’s understanding of that section of the law is that it refers to instances where the city and the cable company have a contract stating the company would give a certain amount of money for the programming for a certain amount of time.

“However, our franchise with Wadsworth expired back in August, so there is no franchise obligation,” he said.

In a letter to Thomas dated Jan. 11, Easton addressed the fact Time Warner was willing to provide the PEG programming, but “was no longer willing to provide the traditional support the company has made in the past. … Such a proposal is unacceptable to the city of Wadsworth as it would result in subscribers to the city system unfairly and inequitably subsidizing Time Warner’s programming offerings.”

Thomas said Time Warner receives PEG programming in other communities throughout Northeast Ohio and has not encountered such roadblocks.

“There are numerous communities throughout Northeast Ohio that have public access programs and the cities fund them,” he said.

However, he said, Wadsworth is the only city in Northeast Ohio that also is a cable provider — Wadsworth Communications.

Easton explained the PEG programming on WCTV is not funded by Wadsworth Communications. WCTV has a separate bank account that is funded by revenues from advertising on the PEG channels; funds from Wadsworth Communications, which Easton compared to its version of franchise fees; and the franchise fees that Time Warner pays.

Without the operating grant it used to pay for the PEG programming, Easton said there is not enough money to keep the station going as it currently stands.

“The PEG budget will have to change substantially. We’ll either have to find a new revenue source or cut expenses,” he said.


The Medina County University Center is offering the Supervisory Leadership Certificate Program for a second time and the Medina County Workforce Development Center wants more area companies to have the opportunity to send their employees through the program.

Therefore, the workforce development center is offering to pay for 75 percent of the program’s cost for 16 Medina County workers.

Bill Hanigan, workforce center director, said the program was first pinpointed as a need for the county by his office’s Incumbent Worker Committee. Hanigan said economic development directors from Wadsworth, Brunswick and Medina, who serve on the committee, pointed out “key individuals within their workforce are promoted into a level of supervision … and a lot of times what happens is they don’t receive the necessary educational support.”

The university center officially opened for classes last month, but it offered the first Supervisory Leadership Certificate Program last fall. Seventeen employees from 10 companies participated in these classes and Hanigan said the feedback was excellent.

The next round of classes begins Feb. 13 and the workforce development center is offering to match 75 percent of the cost of the program. The original cost is $1,529, but the first 16 incumbent workers of county for-profit businesses to register will only be charged $359.25.

“We are focusing on for-profit because we are interested in enhancing and making strong the industry base in Medina County,” Hanigan said.

Those interested can contact him at 330-764-8625 or Sue Dukeman at 330-603-3759. Slots are still available, Hanigan said, but they are filling up fast.

Kacik may be reached at 330-721-4049 or mkacik@ohio.net.

( categories: OHIO | State Franchises | Time Warner )