This January, Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), Oregon’s non-profit, publicly funded television, changed the way it transmitted one of its two adult broadcasting channels. Some local Comcast customers feel that the way the cable provider has handled the matter is unfair.
OPB has transmitted its primary television channel in high definition (HD) since 2011, but has transmitted it in both HD and standard definition (SD). This continues to be the case, so customers who have SD service have been able to receive OPB programs in their homes.
In January, OPB began to offer its second channel, OPB Plus, in HD only. Although cable provider Comcast could continue to make OPB Plus programming available in SD for its SD customers, it has elected not to, forcing these customers to pay an extra $10 charge for HD service if they want to continue to see these programs.
Comcast is the largest broadcasting and cable television company in the world by revenue. All OPB programming and channels are supplied to Comcast at no charge. No monies collected from Comcast customers for HD are remitted to the non-profit.
In January an OPB spokesman said, “The fact that we began transmitting OPB Plus in HD did not require cable providers to drop that channel from their SD channel lineup. We transmit regular OPB TV in HD also, and all cable providers have the capability to make this channel available in SD.”
Because of the cost of HD service, Salem’s Nan Rittal only uses standard definition service. She has one TV on which she watches fewer than 10 channels, “with OPB and OPB Plus being favorites.”
Rittal says that to pay Comcast an extra $10 a month to switch to HD so she can continue to receive OPB Plus is excessive and unfair. “It is past time for Salem to have another option for cable TV subscription,” Rittal says. “We need another option.”
Regarding Comcast’s decision to limit its OPB Plus transmission to HD, Amy Keiter, Director of External Communications for Comcast says, “Given the number of services offered by PBS stations across the country, we are not in a position to offer every service that’s available in HD in a standard definition format.”
When asked to justify Comcast charging extra for HD programming, which has become the industry standard format, Keiter declined to comment.