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TV Notebook: WBGN pays for air time on AT&T cable services

Monday, January 24, 2000

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

Low-power station WBGN, which broadcasts on 11 stations throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania, will begin airing on 14 AT&T Cable Services systems at noon today.

WBGN began a new schedule last week with 10 hours of children's programming (including "Sonic Underground," "Jumanji" and "Pet Playhouse"), classic episodes of "Tarzan" and "The Lucy Show" and reruns of more recent fare such as "Xena: Warrior Princess" and "Conan the Barbarian."

WBGN (Channel 59) also carries professional basketball, including 16 Cleveland Cavalier road games, and college hoops, including seven University of Pittsburgh and West Virginia University basketball games.

WBGN will air in Pittsburgh on AT&T's Channel 5. In the East Hills and the suburbs of Ross, Carnegie, McKeesport, Monessen, Canonsburg, Coraopolis, Baden, Aliquippa, Glassport, McKees Rocks and McDonald, it will air on Channel 21, and in Beaver Falls on Channel 25.

WBGN's programming will kick off today with a 12-hour "Lucy" marathon. WBGN is already carried full-time on some Adelphia Cable systems.

Nancy Hahn, who owns low-power station WNEU, said a low-power broadcaster paying for time on cable, as WBGN has done, is a step backward for low-power broadcasting.

"I started with high school sports," said Hahn, whose station (Channel 63) carries home shopping programming. "I walked through fire only to make way for the other people. Paying to play is discriminatory. We're the little guys."

AT&T spokesman Dan Garfinkel said the deal with WBGN is in no way discriminatory.

"If she would like to pay us on the same terms as Ron Bruno [owner of WBGN], we'd be happy to give her space on the cable system," Garfinkel said. "This is purely a commercial issue. Leased access is available to be purchased, and if WNEU would like to purchase leased access, we're perfectly happy to provide it."

Garfinkel said AT&T gets no compensation from and pays no compensation to local full-power broadcasters (KDKA, WPGH, WPXI, etc.) because there is "tremendous demand for their services" and because the Federal Communications Commission mandates they be carried. There's no such mandate for low-power stations.

Likewise, Garfinkel said Pax TV could pay for space on AT&T Cable systems.

"The FCC requires us to make another channel available if there is in fact demand, meaning somebody with the willingness and ability to pay for it," he said. "Paxson could pay for local access that way."

MURDER IS THE CASE: A local case will be one of three about family members who kill other family members on Discovery Channel's "New Detectives" at 9 p.m. tomorrow.

"Family Plots" will include coverage of the 1994 murder of Maryann Fullerton-Boczkowski of Ross in her hot tub. Last year her husband, Timothy Boczkowski, was convicted of first-degree murder. In 1996 he was convicted of killing his first wife in North Carolina.

SLIME TIME: The slimiest kids' game show is back with "Double Dare 2000," premiering at 5 p.m. today on Nickelodeon. In addition to the classic substances Slime and Gak, a new Nickelodeon substance called Goooze will be added to the messy mix.

"ABC 2000" ON VIDEO: A two-hour highlight reel culled from ABC's New Year's Eve coverage will be available on home video tomorrow. The tape of "ABC 2000: Celebrating the Millennium" will cost $14.95 and will be available in stores or by calling 1-800-CALL-ABC.

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