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State Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa, was the force behind a predatory law last year that enables the pay-TV industry to wring even more from its customers while giving back less in return. Local government and consumer groups opposed the legislation. The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg are fighting the fallout in court. Hillsborough County Commissioners, though, are more interested in exploiting the law for their own self-promotion than in defending the public interest. Once again, the county distinguishes itself by siding with big business instead of average citizens.
St. Petersburg and Tampa sued Bright House Networks when the cable company pushed government television from basic service to a more expensive tier. Bright House's move followed a change in state law last year that moved regulatory control from cities and counties to more relaxed oversight by the state. St. Petersburg and Tampa question whether federal regulations protecting public access to government programming bar moving it to a more expensive tier. Rather than join the fight, Hillsborough commissioners cut a deal Thursday. They accepted $150,000 in free advertising, equipment and other support from Bright House to boost the county's in-house propaganda efforts, with the goal, officials said, of "increasing our customers' perception of the value of county services."
So there it is - Hillsborough residents are "customers" and the way to sweeten public affection for county government is to have the dominant cable provider in town pay for the script. Republican Rose Ferlita was the only commissioner outraged enough to oppose the move, which was embraced by a board that only months ago moved to shut down a range of public programming. To the majority, it was a win-win. They walked away in an election year from a fight with a major player, and they salted away enough ammunition to distort their record down the road.
[Last modified January 3, 2008, 21:59:50]