Cable One, Viacom continue programming dispute

DUNCAN, Okla._ Cable One customers are still without 15 popular television channels after the cable provider failed to reach an agreement with Viacom by April 1.

"We are not happy about this situation," says Candace Boyster, a mother of eight children who have been without some of their favorite TV shows for two weeks. "All the Nickelodeon channels, MTV, we lost CMT that we watched a lot and Spike."

Jim Frieda, Duncan city manager, says this isn't the first time this has happened and his hands are tied when it comes to intervening in programming disputes.

"We have a franchise agreement with Cable One," says Frieda, of a voter-approved 25-year contract which runs through 2021 and gives the cable company complete control. "It's federal law that precludes cities from being involved with regard to oversight on programming."

Frederick, Altus and Marlow are in the same boat. In place of the 15 lost channels, Cable One has offered their customers 15 others. Boyster says, however, the new channels are less popular. Other customers want a discount on their bill, and a number of people are dropping Cable One all together.

Frieda's office has fielded complaints in the past, and he says he is sympathetic to their frustrations.

"If I don't get what I think I'm paying for I would not like it," he says.

If the city did have authority to get involved they would, says Frieda. Now, customers like Boyster, who pays $160 a month for service, are forced with making the decision to stick around or find a new provider.

"We have been with them almost eight years," she says. "I would hate to switch, but I will if I have to."

Cable One was the only cable company out of more than 800 to not reach a deal with Viacom. This could potentially affect the city's bottom line, because the City of Duncan was expecting more than $130,000 in commission this year. If customers continue to drop the local provider that amount will be lower than originally budgeted.