You won't get your MTV in Highland.
Or HBO, Showtime, VH1, Cinemax or Lifetime. Highland is one of three cities in Utah served by Insight Cablevision that is taking advantage of a provision in the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 that allows cities to specify broad categories of video programming.It's a fancy way of saying the cities are regulating cable television. And, it's perfectly legal. Why? Because Insight is willing to abide by the cities' dictates.
The other two cities are Farr West and Plain City, according to Jim Stewart, vice president of operations for Insight. Both are Weber County cities.
According to Highland's cable television franchise agreement, "only channels and services approved by formal action of the City Council may be offered within the city."
"There are decisions made that limit what is offered in any market," said Ken Monson, City Council member. "All we are doing is participating in the process of deciding what is offered in our market."
Monson played a lead role in developing the city's cable television ordinance and is chairman of the city's cable communications advisory commission, whose duty it is to recommend and evaluate programming.
Because of its proximity to Point of the Mountain, Highland has poor television reception. In addressing that problem, the City Council began casting around in 1985 for a cable television provider.
"At that time, there was a lot of concern about what was viewed as the negative elements of cable television," Monson said.
In a conversation with former Rep. Howard Nielson, R-Utah, who was involved in passage of the 1984 act, Monson learned the act included the provision allowing communities to "maintain some influence on what came into the community."
Highland selected Insight Cablevision in 1985 as its cable franchisee based on the company's willingness to provide only programming approved by the city council.
"We try to . . . provide the type of programming the people in a community are interested in having in their community," Stewart said. "I don't think it's appropriate to force programming on people if they don't want it."Channels approved by the city include all local broadcast stations, ESPN, Prime Sports Network, CNN, CNN Headline News, the weather station, CSpan, Discovery Channel, Arts and Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Nashville Network, WTBS, WGN, Vision, Family Channel, Disney, USA, Nostalgia, Financial News Network, Home Shopping Network, QVC and American Movie Classics.
"It's not like we're starved for something to watch," Monson said. Residents pay $16.50 monthly for cable television.
Monson said the majority of residents like the city's cable service "just the way it is."
He admits, however, that some residents and newcomers to Highland are jolted by the fact the city prohibits broadcast of certain channels. In fact, about two years ago, several residents filed a complaint with the American Civil Liberties Union about Highland's restrictive cable ordinance. Nothing came of the complaint, however, according to former Highland resident Craig Harmon.
Monson said he gets about five calls a year from people unhappy about the channel offerings in Highland.
Resident Becky Cutler is irritated she doesn't get all the basic service channels but still has to pay the full basic service fee. She'd like control over service left in her own hands.
"I feel like I ought to have the decision," Cutler said. "It shouldn't be controlled by the city. I probably wouldn't have HBO because I've got young children in the home, but I'd like to be the one that made that decision."
Mary Rhodes, Utah manager for Insight, said that since she assumed that position seven months ago, about four people have specifically called her to complain about Highland's restrictions. Insight has 500 cable customers in the city, which has a population of 5,000.
"We've been very pleased with Insight," Monson said. "They're interested in serving us rather than pressing on us what they want, even though it may not be the same economic benefit to them."