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Updated: Questions and Concerns Arise over Changes at City's Cable TV Studio

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The Ellison Street building where the studio is located
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PATERSON, NJ – City officials on Wednesday were caught off guard by the news that Cablevision had terminated its part-time employee who worked at the city’s cable broadcast studio at 77 Ellison Street, move that some said they feared would impact local programming in Paterson.

The studio was shut down on Wednesday as the Paterson worker, Michael Taylor, was summoned to a large meeting of Cablevision employees in the region who were told they were being laid off as part of a corporate reorganization, city officials said.

The studio is used to produce programs on Paterson’s public- and government-access channels 75, 76 and 77 shown on Cablevision.

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A Cablevision spokeswoman, Kelly McAndrew, said the studio shutdown was a one-day event and that the public-access programing would not be canceled. [Editor's note: This story has been updated to include material from the press release issued by Cablevision.] Local groups and government officials would still be able to produce their Paterson programming without much change, she said.

“I’m not buying that at all,’’ said Councilman William McKoy.

The councilman said he believed Taylor’s termination would limit city groups’ access to the studio. Moreover, he criticized the way Cablevision handled the decision. One city group was supposed to film a show on Wednesday and went to the studio only to find the doors locked.

“This was a poor way of doing it,’’ said McKoy. “You just don’t shut the doors and not notify anyone.’’

City Business Administrator Charles Thomas said municipal officials were “reviewing the matter.’’

“I do not anticipate major changes,’’ Thomas said. “There are organizations groups who utilize the facility through Mike Taylor, accordingly. Their access would be problematic at this time.”

Councilman Andre Sayegh said he participates in some of the public-access programs and was not sure what would happen with them as a result of the downsizing.

Here's the press release that Cablevision issued on Wednesday about the changes:

"Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC) today announced that it is combining MSG Varsity with Optimum Local, the company’s local programming unit. This will result in an expansion of MSG Varsity’s programming line-up to include local public affairs, educational and Optimum-branded shows to complement its powerful line-up of tri-state area high school sports programming, which is available exclusively to Optimum subscribers.

"The combination of these two departments will enable Cablevision to better serve its customers with a wider range of local programming in a more cost-effective and efficient manner. The new programming line-up will begin airing on MSG Varsity, Optimum TV channel 14, mid-year 2013."

McAndrew said local programs produced by Cablevision – shows like “Meet the Leaders” – might undergo some changes as a result of the downsizing. She said those shows were produced mainly by company staff as opposed to local-access programing done by community groups and local officials.

The shows like “Meet the Leaders” would be “under development” during the next several months, McAndrew said.

“It’s not under development, it’s under demolition,’’ said Taylor, who said he had worked at Paterson’s local-access studio for 22 years. Taylor said about 60 writers, editors and other production crew members who worked at Cablevision’s regional studio in Oakland had gotten pink slips yesterday.

Taylor also asserted that Cablevision was distorting the situation when it said that local-access programing would not be affected.

McKoy said he was worried that access and use of the Paterson studio would become more limited as a result of the downsizing. He said he expected Cablevision would impose a more limited schedule for filming at the studio, which he said would stifle community group’s creative opportunities.

McKoy said the city needed to make sure that any changes being made do not violate Cablevision’s franchise agreement with Paterson.

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