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Charter Cable To Discriminate Against Senior Citizens, Starting Saturday

The communications company will require customers to use a digital box to watch Turner Classic Movies.

Let me say this—I have been into cable TV since its inception.

In 1981 when my new bride was househunting for us in Kansas City while I worked the midnight shift as a police officer, my only instructions to her were this: the house had to get cable TV so I could watch baseball games with announcers Harry Carey (Cubs) and Skip Carey (Braves.) 

So I like cable TV. And while in the last year with Charter Cable, I wasn’t so unhappy—until now.  

On Saturday, April 21, Charter is changing the channel lineup. In doing so, a very few select channels will cross over into requiring a digital box.

Some may consider that an upgrade. I don't, and others may not either. Hear me out.

One of the chosen channels for banishment is one of my favorites: Turner Classic Movies. I believe that a large number of TCM fans are older folks, who like me, enjoy movies from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and so forth.

Now local college faculty members have told me students will take a “Film Appreciation” class for what they think is an easy "A", but then walk out when black-and-white movie classics are on the roster.  

I’m told some kids nowadays just will not watch a black-and-white movie.  

Since TCM does not have advertising, there is not a lot of demographic information available for the channel. One survey I did find showed the largest segment of viewers for TCM were over age 65. The next largest segment was my group, ages 55-64. I have to think there are a lot of people in Chesterfield in these two age groups.

I believe this Charter change is really going to irritate, anger, and frustrate many retirees who enjoy TCM.

  • First, TCM is going to disappear. 
  • Then, customers will have to deal with the cable company to get a digital box, and yet another remote control.
  • Finally, they are going to have to install this gear. This would be particularly disruptive to a person living in retirement or assisted-living communities.

I am firmly convinced that Charter has done this as a strong-arm marketing tool, forcing customers to "move up" to a digital box.

I also believe this is clearly age discrimination.

They have made no changes for the most popular teenage and young adult channels. MTV and VH-1 will still be on regular cable.

The other viewers who will take a hit are sports fans. The SPEED Channel, the Golf Channel and NBC Sports Channel are all going to require a digital box, too. Personally, I can live without seeing early rounds of non–major golf tournaments.

But take away my chance to see what's happening at Rick’s and the letters of transit (Casablanca), or hear Robert Osborn giving me the backstory on The Music Man or Citizen Kane really makes me angry.

Older people deserve a break! Taking away their favorite channel for an up-charge is heartless. Retirees on fixed incomes should not be forced to pay more, and be inconvenienced to watch a favorite channel.  

I called Charter’s headquarters on Thursday, and asked to speak to a media representative for comment about this channel move. The person took my vital info, and said someone would get back to me in 72-hours.

In other words, the representative threw up a road block. I told Charter this would be the same as "no comment" since I doubted anyone was going to call me on Sunday (and this column would run before then anyway.)

Apparently Charter didn't care. I'm not certain they care what you and I think about this, anyway. But here is their corporate phone number: 314- 965-0555. Tell them keep TCM where it is!

Using public pressure to force big business to rescind an unfair measure would be something nice to see for a change.  

Local governmental bodies could stick up for a segment of constituents like this. They could start passing resolutions urging Charter not to discriminate against older citizens, and keep TCM on cable without a digital box.             

Chesterfield City Council has several members in the 65-and–up category. Councilman Barry Flachsbart is in his 70s. Elliott Grissom lives in a condo complex of mostly older people. Mike Casey and Mayor Bruce Geiger are also senior politicians. They would be a perfect elected body to let Charter know they don’t like what they have done.

And in neighboring Town and Country, 75-year-old Gussie Crawford just defeated an incumbent alderman. She could introduce a resolution letting Charter know what elected officials think! Then Creve Coeur could jump on board, and the County Council too!

John Hoffmann April 20, 2012 at 09:53 PM
On Friday afternoon I had a call on my answering machine from Emily at Charter Communications who said she received a “tweet” from me with my column and she said she would “tweet” me back and try to get a hold of me. This is all very confusing since I don’t tweet or receive tweets. clearly she received a tweet from someone else with the column. So I checked the caller ID and it was the regular 800-211-4450 number. I called it…hit 0 five or six times until I got a live person…then explained that I wanted to speak to Emily who called me from HQ. The rep found a copy of the tweet on my PERSONAL CHARTER ACCOUNT. Boy that was upsetting…will my service drop or rates go up because I am writing about Charter? She said she would try and find Emily. She got back to me and said she would send my phone number to Emily and let her know that I called. People at Charter are an unusual bunch. Clearly Charter PR flacks don't want anyone to have direct phone numbers. The fact that this column is attached to my personal billing account at Charter is also a little "Orwellian"
Megan Cole April 21, 2012 at 12:58 PM
What cable company out there besides Charter doesn't require you to have a box for all channels in the expanded lineup? Xinifinty? No. Time Warner? No. Cable Vision? No. Direct TV? No. Dish Network? No. So you should be thanking them that they waited this long. My grandparents were upset at first but after 1 week they really enjoy it. They even have upgraded to DVRs. Change may be hard at first but change is worth it in the end. I had to comment because your trying to start a boycott on using technology. Did you start a boycott when the computer started replacing the typewriter?
John Hoffmann April 21, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Megan, My point is that TCM should be one of the last channels to be effected by this change, not one of the first. Why wasn't Spike TV or VH-1 one the first?
Brady Shuman April 21, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I get Charter through my apartment complex in Manchester. The cable comes straight out of the wall. I don't have any sort of box, and don't know how that would work without paying extra. I was VERY sad to see TCM gone today, and that a couple of other channels had switched numbers. So frustrating.
Jean Whitney April 22, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I don't have any "box" either, Brady. And when Charter tried to get me to pay more last year with a "box" I was told I would have to "rent" it from them for a higher fee every month. I said no thanks. Friday night, I was watching a TCM spring break classic movie. At 12:25a.m. (Sat.) the TCM channel went blank, with "a blip." How about AT&T?

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