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Local officials discusss lawsuit against Channel 3's owner

| Thursday, April 26, 2001

About the late Channel 3
  • What: Cable access channel featured local origination programming from 1967 until Jan. 31.

  • Where: Covered local schools including Burrell, Valley, Fox Chapel, Springdale, Hampton, St. Joseph, Highlands, Deer Lakes and Riverview.

  • Who: Originated by Fox Chapel resident Nelson L. Goldberg, formerly of New Kensington, who also owned WPKA-AM and WYDD-FM.

  • Trivia: First Basketball Player of the Year was George Karl of Penn Hills in 1969. Karl now coaches the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks.
  • HARMAR: When AT&T decided to discontinue local sports programming, including high school telecasts and talk shows, Jan. 31, the disagreeable howls from fans were loud and long.

    But those howls might now have found a voice.

    And a COG could be a cog in bringing back local programming.

    The Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments (COG), an organization of 14 local borough and township governments, heard a presentation from Blawnox Borough Wednesday on the circumstances surrounding the municipality's decision to file a lawsuit against AT&T, charging the communications giant and its local subsidiary of deceit in regard to the transfer of the borough's cable television service from Comcast to AT&T. Comcast Cablvision of the South, Inc. also is a defendant in the suit.

    The presentation included an address by Nelson L. Goldberg, founder of Westmoreland Cable Co. in 1964 who inauguarted local origination programming in 1967.

    'The promise of the area's own channel was part of the package that I made back then to acquire the rights in the municipalities,' Goldebrg recalled.

    At the conclusion of Blawnox's presentation, COG chairman Walter Thompson, long-time East Deer Township commissioner and an avid youth sports fan, called a general assembly meeting for

    May 30, the council's next regular session.

    A general assembly consists of all elected officials from the 14 municipalities. The meeting, set for Acmetonia Elementary School if the building can be acquired, also is open to the public.

    Ways will be explored from various legal angles on how municipalities can confront AT&T with the motive of bringing back local origination.

    'I know three close friends of mine who lost jobs there,' Thompson said of the former Cable 3.

    As it now stands, this fall will be the first time in 35 years that a local football player will not see himself on television.

    first time in 35 years that a local football player will not see himself on television.

    Quality returning players such as Tim Eckman of Burrell, Patrick Weber of Valley and Dimitri Facaros of Riverview and others will not be able to see themselves or their teammates on tape-delayed broadcasts for the 2001-02 campaign.

    Football coach Tom Henderson of Burrell and Highlands basketball coach Rich Falter are among those who have publicly lamented the loss of their teams' exposure on local television.

    Riverview principal Richard Rosenberger considered Comcast Cable 3 'a member of the Riverview family.'

    The former Comcast Cable 3 also televised girls basketball, soccer, wrestling and hockey.

    According to information discussed at Wednesday's COG meeting at U-PARC, attorney Fred Polmer, who has been retained by Blawnox Borough because of his expertise in communications law, pointed out a number of regulations that municipal officials and subscribers might now be aware of, such as renegotiation of a contract.

    A municipality is the franchise holder for local cable television companies.

    AT&T has said repeatedly that if local programming were to continue, other systems would want local origination, too.

    'AT&T and Comcast may think Blawnox Borough Council and its residents are just a bunch of small-town people, but we do know the difference between apples and oranges,' commented Sam McNaughton, Blawnox Borough Council President. 'It is clear to me, based on AT&T's arrogant and high-handed attitude toward subscribers, coupled with wholesale programming changes, that AT&T is really calling the shots.'

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