Judge grants channel injunction

CITY HALL — A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge this week sided with the city in its attempt to block Charter Communications from rearranging the local channel lineup, including Glendale’s Emmy Award-winning government access channel GTV6.

Superior Court Judge Donna Fields Goldstein on Monday granted the city’s request for a preliminary injunction, ruling that Charter needs the city’s consent for proposed channel changes.

Goldstein granted a temporary injunction in January.

Charter planned to shift Glendale’s public access channels, including channels 15, 16 and 21, with its entire lineup in January as a part of the last phase of a two-year plan to align all of the company’s Southern California customers under a unified structure.

But Glendale officials — who argued that changing GTV6 would undo years of branding for the city and its programs — refused consent and filed a legal motion to block the move.

In her ruling, Goldstein cited the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006, which prevents government access channels from being changed without local municipal permission.

The city could still attempt to secure a permanent injunction, officials said.

On Wednesday, Del Heintz, Charter’s director of government relations and public affairs for the Southern California region, said the company was disappointed by the judge’s ruling.

“We think this ruling hurts our customers in Glendale,” he said. “Despite our offer to work with the city to promote the new channel locations and ensure our customers could continue to easily find and enjoy their program, the city is essentially denying our efforts to quickly and consistently add services for our customers to enjoy.”

Charter officials have argued that the channel change is needed to introduce new high-definition channels in response to consumer demand, but city officials contend they have made such additions before without changing the public access channels.

Charter attorneys have argued that the injunction — which also blocks the proposed changes in Burbank, La Cañada, La Crescenta and Montrose — would “create an ‘island’ of disparate channel lineups and service offerings, frustrating the needs and expectations of Charter’s customers.”

The legal battle began in December when Charter asked a federal judge to affirm the company’s right to reassign the channels, with or without the city’s consent. That, in turn, prompted the city to seek the injunction.

A federal judge threw out the case, prompting the city to file for an injunction in Los Angeles County Superior Court last month.

“We were greatly concerned that Charter was going to go ahead and realign these channels on Jan. 19 without the city’s agreement,” city spokesman Ritch Wells said Wednesday.

With the temporary injunction in place, Wells said city officials are willing to negotiate with the company.

But there needs to be extensive public outreach before any change takes place, Wells said. City officials also have concerns about the signal quality of the higher-numbered channels, which would now host the school district’s public access channels, he said.

“We have been stating all along that we would like to sit down with Charter and discuss this in greater detail,” he said.

Charter officials said they were also willing to return to the table.

“We will continue to work to resolve this dispute on terms that will best benefit our customers,” Heintz said.

Get in touch MELANIE HICKEN covers City Hall. She may be reached at (818) 637-3235 or by e-mail at melanie.hicken@ latimes.com.

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