Charter Communications’ Spectrum Cable system will drop Springfield, Massachusetts’ NBC affiliate, WWLP Channel 22, next month. The plan will sever Berkshire County from state and Boston cable television news. People in Berkshire County are concerned.
Charter Communications’ Spectrum Cable cites overlapping coverage areas for the reason for cutting three Berkshire cable systems from its lineup next month.
“Customers will continue to have access to their favorite network programming via the in-market station, WNYT,” Andrew Russell, spokesman for Charter’s Northeast office, says. WNYT is based out of Albany.
Basically, it’s a question of geography: at the commonwealth’s western edge, Berkshire County is often grouped into the Albany media market, about an hour and a state border away.
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright, who is in just one of the 16 county municipalities that will be affected, says this is a move that will hurt the residents of Berkshire County.
“This one channel, this one station in Springfield gives us the central Massachusetts connectivity we don’t have any other way. And it is a good station,” Alcombright says. “They bring some good local programming and whatnot. But it is the news piece that is really important to people around here. I know it is important to me. At 5:30 I am on 13 in Albany. The next half hour I am on 22 in Springfield. The next half hour I am on 5 in Boston.”
Residents in Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Williamstown, Dalton, Great Barrington, Lee, Pittsfield, Richmond, Lenox, Sheffield, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, Hinsdale and Lanesborough will also lose WWLP-22.
Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer says the city is at a loss without the local news WWLP supplies.
The mayor says “It is extremely frustrating to myself and I know for the citizens of Pittsfield, this is not acceptable. We need access to Massachusetts news as much as any other community.”
Alcombright says he has been in communication with Spectrum and he thinks the problem is really with the cost of bringing the network to Western Massachusetts. But he says it’s not Berkshire County’s fault that the company can’t work out the deals and the contracts to stay in the region — if the cost is the problem.
Calls to WWLP seeking comment were not returned.
“What do we lose? We lose the ability to have the news as a Massachusetts resident and as a subscriber to Charter or Spectrum or whomever we lose that ability to do that because they pulled the programming,” Alcombright says.
Charter Spectrum’s cable lineup for the Berkshires still has other Massachusetts stations like WSHM CBS 3 and WBGY PBS.
Senators Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, and Representative Richard Neal of Springfield have all sent letters to Charter’s Spectrum and WWLP urging a deal.
The lawmakers have said they “encourage both parties to pursue good faith negotiations on this matter so that Berkshire residents continue to revive Massachusetts information, including emergency alerts, weather closings and daily news.”
The network will be dropped across the county between April 17-24.