MichiganGolf.com Editorial: Bring Back the Golf Channel
LANSING, MI - Mid-Michigan golf enthusiasts and AT&T Broadband analog cable television subscribers were dismayed earlier this month when the cable provider moved The Golf Channel to its digital-only service package. Despite vocal opposition to the move by everyone from local Golf Channel viewers to The Golf Channel Studios, Mid-Michigan's AT&T Broadband office is sticking with its decision: a decision which costs The Golf Channel tens of thousands of viewers, and costs those viewers who do decide to switch to digital service an extra $10-20 per month.
According to the FCC, local cable providers are using the mandated 2006 switch to all-digital programming as a cover for moving certain channels over to digital early. The strategy on the part of cable providers is to force viewers they consider to have more expendable income to upgrade now.
According to Tracy Baumgartner, national media spokesperson for AT&T Broadband, "The migration of The Golf Channel to digital is a local decision. It is definitely not a national policy."
Despite the official wording - "migration" makes it sound like cable networks are geese, flying to digital for the winter - the change over to digital has not gone unnoticed at The Golf Channel. When contacted about the situation by MichiganGolf.com, The Golf Channel responded:
"The Golf Channel is disappointed that AT&T chose to reposition our network from its first tier analog position to digital. As a result, thousands of loyal viewers in the Lansing market have been negatively impacted. It is particularly ill-timed, as 2002 promises to be an exceptional year for programming on TGC, beginning with our "Tune Up Your Game" campaign this month. TGC viewers are encouraged to call or write the AT&T customer service center in Lansing and voice their opinions."
When asked if Mid-Michigan was the only area affected, spokesperson Eric Bartels said that as far as he is aware, the same thing has happened in Atlanta and parts of Orange County, CA.
Comments from another source at The Golf Channel, who asked to remain anonymous, were stronger: "We have had so many comments on our website about it, and we think it's a horrible idea. AT&T wanted [The Golf Channel] moved to a higher tier to drive golfers to pay higher prices."
The move by Mid-Michigan's AT&T Broadband offices is not unprecedented. In minutes of a May 2001 East Lansing Human Relations Commission Meeting obtained by MichiganGolf.com, Wendy Henry, AT&T Broadband Marketing Manager of Mid-Michigan, defended the early 2001 decision to move pay-per-view to digital as well. According to the minutes, Henry claimed that there were no open channels on analog, so pay-per-view - and presumably The Golf Channel since then - was moved to digital, which has more capacity.
According to a source at the FCC, however, there are no technical reasons why The Golf Channel could not be broadcast in both analog and digital formats.
Mid-Michigan AT&T Broadband cable subscribers and Golf Channel fans are urged to contact the offices of AT&T Broadband in Lansing. Yet despite the fact that the FCC, The Golf Channel, and AT&T Broadband's national offices all recommended that viewers contact the local offices, there is no published number for them to call; the only way to register a complaint is to personally visit or write to the offices at 1401 E. Miller Road, Lansing, MI 48911-5322. Repeated attempts to contact the office of Wendy Henry for this article were unsuccessful in fact, even with a phone number.
Now is the time for Mid-Michigan golf fans and analog cable subscribers to adopt the MTV slogan of the 80's: "I want my Golf Channel!"
January 21, 2002