NASHUA — TV13 Nashua News Producer Carolyn Choate stood in front of the new Market Basket on Route 101A Friday collecting more signatures on a petition to Comcast to keep the local station in its programming lineup.
"It's been overwhelming," said Choate, who figured TV13 supporters had a total of about 1,700 signatures on paper and electronic petitions. "People are coming here just to sign their names."
Comcast has announced it will stop carrying WYCN TV13 on or around Sept. 3. The cable giant decided earlier this year to cut TV13 because the station was no longer producing community programming. And even TV 13's most ardent supporters agree the station had let local coverage slip over the past couple of years.
But last May, the station's former owner, Binnie Media, sold WYCN TV13 to Over the Air Broadcasting, OTA, a Virginia-based media company that owns and operates independent television stations throughout the country. OTA's first move in Nashua was to put Choate and her husband, Gordon, back in charge of producing local programming, jobs they had been doing since 1988.
But the return of local programming has not changed any minds at Comcast. And the cable giant has downplayed a groundswell of community support for TV13, which includes a pile of letters from political, civic and business leaders who have said the station is a valuable asset to Nashua and the surrounding communities.
This week, OTA invested in two full-page newspaper ads, asking residents to show their support for local reporting by stopping at Market Basket on Friday to sign the petition to save TV13. And the ads attracted supporters. By noon, Choate was wondering if she had enough copies of the petition to share with everyone who was showing up with a pen.
TV13 is a low-power broadcast station which can be picked up by televisions equipped with an antenna. However, because most homes now receive television programming through cable, TV13 Nashua has relied on agreements with cable television providers to carry its signal to its greater Nashua audience.
Choate said there is no clear reason for Comcast to cut TV13.
"We're hearing that they don't want to set a precedent to have a low power station in their programming," she said. "We're saying honor our agreement and carry us to 2015."
Comcast has offered to set up Web-based programming for TV13, but Choate and her husband have said no thanks, they can do that themselves.
Even if Comcast refuses to reconsider its position on TV13, the station will continue broadcasting. However, only homes within roughly a 1-mile radius of the station, located on Industrial Drive, will be able to pick up the TV 13 signal.
"We'll still be on television," Choate said. "The difference is no one will see us."