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Comcast Under Fire

York, Pa- Comcast of Southeast Pennsylvania — under fire from a coalition of anti-pornography groups for some pay-per-view cable television offerings –is seeking to renew its cable franchise in Hellam Township.

Township supervisors will hear public comment tomorrow before they vote on whether to renew the company’s contract for cable television and communication services.

The current 15-year contract would be renewed for the same period, said township manager Norman Meiskey.

But the contract has encountered opposition.

“We encourage the Hellam Township supervisors not to renew with Comcast until they remove the pay-for-view pornography,” said William Devlin, founder of Urban Family of Philadelphia, a children and family advocacy group that is part of the coalition.

‘Non-issue’: Supervisor Michael Martin yesterday called the complaint a “non-issue.” He said contract negotiations with Comcast began last year under the previous board of supervisors, and tomorrow’s vote is intended to finalize and enact an ordinance.

He said the previous board had solicited comments from township residents when negotiations began, and the few comments received had nothing to do with sexually themed pay-per-view programs.

“That would have been the time for any issues to be raised. Not now when we’re finalizing. It’s late in the game,” he said.

The fact that the Comcast contract was under negotiation also had been discussed at several supervisors meetings, he said.

Meiskey said under the new contract with Comcast, the cable operator would provide free modem and high-speed Internet access to all public institutions including schools, fire companies, ambulance services and the sewer authority. Comcast customers normally must pay separate fees for all services.

“It’s a tremendous boon for the township,” Martin said, adding that the township had negotiated reduced cable line home hookup rates “which is to the benefit of those who would like cable and Internet.”

Cable operators such as Comcast use public rights of way to string cable lines and pay a fee for the privilege. Hellam Township expects to receive $40,000 in cable television fees this year.

In addition to Comcast, the township also receives cable service from SusCom cable, owned by Susquehanna Communications of York. The SusCom contract was renegotiated with the township earlier this year.

Comcast is headquartered in Philadelphia. It has 21 million cable subscribers in 35 states and the District of Columbia. It offers a variety of television programming, including sports, news and weather, music, education and science, home leisure and entertainment, in-home movies and up to 270 cable channels.

Push for no porn: The coalition that wants Comcast to drop “pornography programming” is made up of anti-pornography groups statewide, including the Urban Family Council of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Family Institute ofHarrisburg, Pennsylvanians Against Pornography of Pittsburgh, American Family Association of Pennsylvania of Erie and Survivors and Victims Empowered of Lancaster.

For June, the coalition said in a statement, Comcast offered upwards of what it said were 15 pornographic shows each day, including titles like “Extreme Behavior,” “Wicked Sex Party 5,” “Barely Legal #45” and “Best Butt in the West #6.”

Devlin said, “Comcast has contributed to the decline of American culture by insisting that their company continue to demean women by depicting them engaged in acts of hardcore pornography.”

The coalition has been particularly incensed by a deal that would give the cable giant state tax breaks to build a new headquarters in Philadelphia in a to-be-designated Keystone Opportunity Zone.

Last month, the coalition called on the state Senate to withhold approval of the zone for Comcast until it removes what it considers hardcore pornographic programming from its pay- per-view cable menu. As yet, the Senate has not acted.

The company offers parental control options with its basic and digital cable services to control what children watch. However, Devlin said parental control mechanisms don’t address the issue of “demeaning women,” which contributes to domestic violence and the erosion of family values.

Calls and e-mails to Comcast for comment were unanswered.

The Hallam fire hall was selected by supervisors for tomorrow’s meeting to accommodate the large crowd expected to attend the public hearing on a proposed new 2004 township land-use zoning ordinance — the third in three years. The public hearing is set to start at 6 p.m. with the regular board meeting to follow.


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